Alleged Japanese Red Army member Tsutomu Shirosaki found guilty, given 12-year sentence

Alleged Japanese Red Army member Tsutomu Shirosaki has been found guilty in his trial over the May 1986 mortar attack on the Japanese embassy in Jakarta. The Tokyo District Court today handed down a 12-year sentence for the attack, in which two projectiles were launched from a hotel room but failed to cause injury or extensive damage.

Shirosaki was deported to Japan in February 2015, having serving 18 years in prison in America for an attack on the US embassy during the same incident. He was then arrested at Narita Airport and his trial for attempted murder began in September, concluding on November 1st.

tsutomu shirosaki deported japan 2015

Shirosaki was a veteran of Sekigun-ha (Red Army Faction), the far-left domestic group out of which the JRA partly emerged. He was arrested in 1971 for bank robbery (Sekigun-ha carried out a successful bank robbery campaign to raise funds) but freed in October 1977 when the JRA hijacked a plane, forced it to land in Dhaka and demanded the release of various prisoners in Japan. He was later re-arrested in Nepal in 1996 by local authorities in co-operation with the FBI.

The 68-year-old Shirosaki maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying he was not even in Indonesia at the time and that the evidence is fabricated. In fact, he claims never to have formally joined the JRA. Though some of the prisoners requested by the hijackers did refuse to go, it was a natural choice to leave Japan when he was offered the opportunity. He alleges, though, that his subsequent activities were not part of the group associated most readily with Fusako Shigenobu, who was herself arrested in Japan in late 2000 and officially disbanded the JRA the following year.

The trial of Shirosaki was the first time lay judges (introduced only relatively recently in Japan) heard a public security case involving so-called “extremists”. It was not without incident, including an embarrassing snafu regarding the error-strewn court translation of Indonesian witness testimony.

Aside from a witness claiming they saw him at the hotel, the main evidence against Shirosaki relates to fingerprints found in a hotel room in Jakarta that apparently match with his. The prosecution asserted that Shirosaki entered Indonesia with a fake passport, motivated to carry out the attack as a protest against the 12th G7 Summit, which was held only days earlier in Tokyo. A car bomb also exploded outside the Canadian embassy. Shirosaki has been presented as the criminal mastermind behind the incident, which was officially claimed by the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade, though, given the multiple mortars, it most likely entailed the participation of several people.

One of the 20 witnesses in the trial was Masao Adachi, the film-maker who was a member of the Japanese Red Army. After he was deported from Lebanon in 2000, Adachi faced his own trial in his native Japan. By chance, Yasuo Tsujikawa, one of the judges who presided, was also the judge for Shirosaki’s trial.

Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence, though I heard from supporters that they were hoping for a lighter judgment. Presumably the guilty verdict was never in doubt. The verdict will almost certainly be appealed.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

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