The former Japanese Red Army activist Yukiko Ekita (also commonly spelled Ekida) has been released from prison after completing her 20-year sentence. Now aged 66, Ekita walked free on March 23rd from Tokyo Detention House, where she was met by supporters. She was convicted of attempted murder and violating the explosives law during the campaign that the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front waged against major Japanese corporations from 1974 to 1975. Her sentence was confirmed in 2004 and she served much of it at Tochigi Prison.
Prior to joining the Japanese Red Army, Ekita was originally a member of a cell within the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front, which is most famous for carrying out the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries bombing in 1974 that left eight dead. Ekita was part of the Daichi no Kiba (Fangs of the Earth) cell, along with her common-law husband, Nodoka Saitō (also known as Kazu Saitō). Their cell organised bombings of five facilities in Tokyo, including the headquarters of Mitsui & Co. and Taisei Corporation, which left 20 people injured but no fatalities. When almost all of the members of the three cells were arrested in May 1975, Saitō committed suicide.
Ekita’s initial trial and detention was interrupted by an extralegal release. In 1977, the Japanese Red Army carried out a hijacking of a JAL flight and forced it to land in Dhaka. The JRA demanded the liberty of several prisoners and Ekita was among those released. She later joined the JRA and had a child during her time overseas. She was arrested in Romania in 1995 on passport forgery charges and deported to Japan, where her trial resumed.
It is probably the most prominent release of a far-left activist since Masao Adachi and Mariko Yamamoto in the 2000s. Ekita’s fellow JRA activists Fusako Shigenobu, Tsutomu Shirosaki and Haruo Wakō still languish in prison. Wakō is serving a full-life sentence while Shirosaki — who had also been released in the Dhaka Incident — was recently sentenced to 12 years following his deportation from the United States in 2015. Shigenobu is said to be suffering from poor health but may potentially be released in the near future.
Other members of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front remain at large, including Ayako Daidōji and Norio Sasaki, who also both joined the JRA after being freed, and Satoshi Kirishima.