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Thursday, May 10, 2007
Red Army figure's life term stands
By JUN HONGO
The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a Japanese Red Army leader's lower court-imposed life prison sentence for his role in terrorist attacks on two overseas diplomatic missions in the mid-1970s.
Haruo Wako, 58, was convicted of attempted murder and taking civilians hostage during sieges of the French Embassy in The Hague in 1974 and a shared diplomatic compound in Kuala Lumpur the following year.
Presiding Judge Ritsuro Uemura ruled that Wako was one of the masterminds behind the two attacks, in which five people were wounded.
"The two attacks were heinous crimes committed with absolutely no regard for the law," Uemura said, adding Wako's "inhumane acts" caused both physical and emotional pain to the hostages and their families.
Wako, dressed in gray shirt and dark pants, looked impassive as the verdict was read. But before sitting, he turned to the gallery and smiled.
Wako and two other Red Army members, armed with grenades and firearms, entered the French Embassy in The Hague on Sept. 13, 1974, and took 11 people hostage. During the attack, two police officers were shot and seriously wounded.
The group demanded the release of a Japanese man who was serving time in a French prison for passport forgery. France eventually released the man and the four people escaped together.
The third man, Junzo Okudaira, 58, is still at large.
Wako's conviction for his role in taking over the diplomatic compound in Kuala Lumpur in August 1975 with four other Red Army members was also upheld Wednesday.
The group took about 50 people hostage in the compound, including the U.S. consul, and demanded the release of five Red Army members who were in prison in Japan for various crimes, including passport forgery.
Two police officers and a guard were shot before then Prime Minister Takeo Miki had the five people released.
The Kuala Lumpur group included one of the men in the French Embassy siege, Jun Nishikawa. He was picked up by Bolivian authorities and extradited to Japan last November to stand trial for the French Embassy siege.
In March, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Nishikawa, 56, to life in prison on a number of charges, including attempted murder during The Hague attack and passport forgery. He has appealed.
After the Kuala Lumpur attack, Wako went to Lebanon, where he was arrested in February 1997 for passport forgery and being in the country illegally. He served a prison term in Lebanon and then was deported in March 2000 to Japan, where he was arrested upon arrival.
In March 2005, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Wako to life imprisonment. Wako, who joined the Red Army in 1973, acknowledged during his district court trial that he had taken part in the attacks but had appealed the ruling on grounds that he was not guilty of attempted murder, claiming it had never been the group's intention to kill any of the hostages.