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Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 16:34 GMT
Japanese Red Army leader charged
Fusako Shigenobu at Tokyo train station with police escort
Shigenobu, dubbed "the empress" of the Red Army
The leader of the radical Japanese Red Army, once one of the world's most feared guerrilla groups, has been formally charged in Tokyo with involvement in an attack that took place in 1974.


The prosecutors have indicted her to save their pride after seeking her for 26 years

Defence lawyers
Prosecutors indicted the woman, Fusako Shigenobu, on charges of taking part in the seizure of the French embassy in The Hague, in which the ambassador was taken hostage.

In a statement issued by her lawyers, the 55-year-old Ms Shigenobu was defiant.

"As a person in a responsible position, I cannot speak or act in a way to forsake my comrades," she said.

Her lawyers have denounced the charges as illegal, unjust and politically motivated.

Surprise arrest

Their statement said: "The prosecutors have indicted her to save their pride and face after seeking after her internationally for 26 years.

Shigenobu
Shigenobu: On the run for nearly 30 years
"Such a political indictment cannot be condoned."

Ms Shigenobu was arrested earlier this month at an hotel near the western city of Osaka, after more than 30 years on the run.

As police took her off, she shouted at reporters: "I am determined to fight on."

The Japanese Red Army became known in the 1970s for a series of horrifying attacks, including plane hijackings and hostage-takings.

The most notorious of these was the machine gun and grenade attack at Israel's Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion) in 1972, which killed 26 and injured 78 people.

Japanese Red Army
Founded c. 1970
Stated goals: Overthrow Japanese government and monarchy, help foment world revolution
Some members thought to have joined revolutionary groups in Peru and Colombia
Miss Shigenobu's capture inside Japan came as a surprise because she was believed to be living in Lebanon where her group had based itself in the 1970s.

But she is reported to have made several visits back to Japan in recent years in an apparent effort to reorganise and revitalise her group. Many of the group's key members are now in jail.

Fusako Shigenobu
Shigenobu, pictured in 1985, operated out of Lebanon
Japanese media reports said she had been living in Osaka since mid-July and using a friend's name as an alias.

The Red Army grew out of the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement and believed in the destruction of capitalism.

In 1971 the group reorganised itself to fight for Arab causes and Ms Shigenobu travelled to Lebanon where she linked up with Palestinian extremists.

Earlier this year, Tokyo police arrested four other Red Army members after they were deported from Lebanon.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Red Army's reign of terror
28 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Red Army hijack suspect returns
18 Mar 00 | Middle East
Red Army guerrillas arrested
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