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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The Japanese authorities believed he worked as an agent for North Korea"
 real 56k

Friday, 15 December, 2000, 07:13 GMT
Hijacker admits guilt after 30 years
Yoshimi Tanaka leaving a Thai courtroom in 1999
Tanaka was tried in Thailand, then extradited to Japan
A Japanese man has admitted guilt for a 1970 hijacking and apologised for "sending passengers into the abyss of fear."

Yoshimi Tanaka, 52, was part of a team of nine Red Army Faction activists who diverted a plane to Pyongyang in Japan's first hijacking.


I have no intention of challenging the charges

Former hijacker Yoshimi Tanaka
Mr Tanaka was granted political asylum in North Korea after the hijacking and is believed to have worked as a spy for the communist power for more than 25 years.

He pleaded guilty to the hijacking charge in the Tokyo District Court on Friday.

"I have no intention of challenging the charges", he told the court.

Asylum

He also admitted inflicting minor injuries on five people of the 129 people on board the hijacked plane, a JAL Boeing 727 which was seized in March 1970.

He was arrested near Cambodia's border with Vietnam in 1996 and charged with using counterfeit US dollars at a Thai beach resort.

He was tried in Thailand and acquitted in 1999, after which he was extradited to Japan to face the hijacking charge.

The trial is part of Japan's drive to prosecute leftist extremists from the Red Army Faction and the related Japanese Red Army.

Shigenobu
Shigenobu: On the run for nearly 30 years
Last month, Tokyo charged the leader of the Japanese Red Army, Fusako Shigenobu, 55, with involvement in the seizure of the French Embassy in The Hague in 1974.

Known as "the empress", Ms Shigenobu had been on the run since the 1970s until she was arrested near Osaka in November.

Four other members of the Japanese Red Army were arrested in May, accused of taking part in hijackings, embassy seizures and other terrorist activities, including a 1972 attack on an Israeli airport in which 26 people were killed.

Most of the extremists involved in the 1970 Japan Airlines hijacking have never been tried.

Four are believed to be living in North Korea. Three have died. One was arrested in 1988 and served a five-year prison sentence in Japan.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese Red Army leader charged
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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