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The BBC's Juliet Hindell reports
"All four are accused of crimes committed in the 1970s"
 real 28k

The BBC's Raphael Jesurum
"Lebanon had refused to hand them over"
 real 28k

The BBC's Christopher Hack reports
"Three of the aging revolutionaries converted to Islam"
 real 28k

Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 13:45 GMT
Red Army guerrillas arrested
The five Red Army members pictured in a Lebanese court
All five, pictured during their 1997 trial in Lebanon
Four Japanese Red Army militants have been arrested on their return to Tokyo after being deported from Lebanon.

Accompanied by Japanese diplomats, the three men and a woman flew in from Jordan - to where they had been deported from Lebanon - after being expelled from Amman.

Masao Adachi
Masao Adachi (centre) being led away by police
They were taken into custody by armed police as soon as they landed at Tokyo-Narita airport.

"We arrested three and issued a warrant of imprisonment on the fourth," said a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

Members of the Red Army, an ultra-leftist group which supported the Palestinian cause against Israel in the 1970s, were involved in a number of incidents, including the attack on Ben Gurion airport in 1972 in which 24 people were killed.


We will fight aggressively to eradicate terrorism

Japanese Premier Keizo Obuchi
The three men now in custody are Masao Adachi, 59, Kazuo Tohira, 46, and Haruwo Wako, 50. The woman arrested is Mariko Yamamoto, 58.

Tohira was arrested in Japan 25 years ago for using a false passport, but was later released in exchange for hostages taken by the Red Army. He has been taken straight back to jail.

Asylum

Japan has long wanted to put the Red Army members on trial, but did not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, where the four have spent most of the intervening years.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said the detentions let "terrorists know they have no place in the world to live in peace".

Kozo Okamoto
Kozo Okamoto in Lebanon two weeks ago
"The Japanese government will continue to co-operate with the international community to find and arrest other Red Army members who are still at large," he said.

As well as expelling the four now in custody, Lebanon granted political asylum to a fifth, who had taken part in the attack on Ben Gurion airport, then known as Lod.

A Lebanese official said 51-year-old Kozo Okamoto had been given asylum because of the way he had been treated in Israeli prisons.

Mr Obuchi described the decision as "extremely regrettable" and said Japan would pursue its fight for his extradition.

'Heroes'

Lebanon refused Japan's extradition demands for the five, citing the lack of a treaty between the two countries and saying the Japanese Government had no evidence.

All five are widely regarded as heroes in Lebanon for championing the Palestinian cause and opposing Israel, which occupies a border zone in southern Lebanon.

Ben-Gurion airport
The 1972 airport attack killed 24 people
They were discovered by Lebanese authorities sheltering in the country's remote eastern Beka'a Valley in 1997.

They were tried for entering the country illegally and received three-year prison terms, which expired earlier this month. They remained in custody pending asylum decisions.

Okamoto had spent 13 years in jail in Israel before being released five years ago in a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians.

In what was seen as an attempt to avoid being sent home, Adachi recently married a Lebanese woman after converting to Greek Orthodox Christianity, and Okamoto and two others converted to Islam.

The Red Army advocates world revolution through armed violence and its hard-core membership is estimated variously at between 30 and 100.

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