Japanese Red Army founder Shigenobu free after over 20 years
The founder of the Communist pro-Palestine organization, the Japanese Red Army, Fusako Shigenobu, has been freed from the Japanese prisons after two decades.
Fusako Shigenobu, 76, the founder of the Communist Japanese Red Army (JRA), was released Saturday after spending two decades behind bars in Japan over allegations of having a hand in the siege imposed on the French Embassy in The Hague in 1974.
The charges pressed against the pro-Palestinian activist were completely dismissed by Shigenobu. Three Japanese Red Army fighters had reportedly stormed the French Embassy and demanded the release of their comrade, Yatsuka Furuya, who had been arrested by the Parisian authorities earlier that year.
The operation ended after five-day-long negotiations that saw Furuya granted his freedom and the Embassy staff released unharmed. Shigenobu herself did not take part in the operation; however, the French and Japanese authorities alleged that the JRA fighters were acting under her orders, which she denied.
After two decades in prison, Shigenobu left the prison in Tokyo with her daughter as supporters of the Communist icon gathered in front of the facility and voiced support for the freedom fighter regarded as innocent of the embassy attack by many. The activist left the prison wearing the Palestinian Koufiyyeh, which reflected that over two decades of imprisonment did not break her support for the Palestinian cause.
Palestine in the heart of Japan
Shigenobu was a part of the Japanese proletariat before founding the JRA, working in a soy-sauce company in a post-war Japan. The organization championed the Palestinian cause, alongside anti-imperialism and a revolution of the proletariat in Japan. In exchange for their efforts, they were slapped with the "terrorist" designation from Tokyo and Washington.
She was arrested in Japan in 2000, and the local authorities sentenced her to 20 years in prison six years later over her alleged role in the French Embassy incident. Tokyo acknowledged that Shigenobu did not take part in the attack personally, but the court claimed she had coordinated the operation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The JRA was also behind the 1972 "Lod Airport" operation (now known as Ben Gurion International Airport built on the rubble of Palestinian homes), which saw the organization killing eight Israeli settlers and injuring dozens of others. The operation took place as a retaliation for the Israeli occupation's oppression of Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian land.
The JRA is said to have been behind various other operations around the globe in support of the Palestinian cause.
Shigenobu's pro-Palestinian ideals came early on in her life after she passed a sit-in protest at a university in the Japanese capital at 20 years old at a time the country's youth were protesting the US war on Vietnam and Tokyo's plans to allow Washington's army to remain stationed on Japanese soil.
She became part of the leftist movement and left Japan years later at 25 and eventually had a child, May, with a PFLP freedom fighter in 1973. The latter hailed her mother's release on social media.
Shigenobu, a year after her incarceration, announced the Red Army's disbanding from prison in April 2001. Seven years later, she was diagnosed with colon and intestinal cancer, which saw her undergoing various procedures to help her recover.
She said on Saturday she would first focus on her treatment for now and explained that she would be unable to contribute to society due to her health condition.
She had written a letter to a Japan Times reporter in which she said, "Our hopes were not fulfilled, and it came to an ugly end." But now, there is a new beginning for the activist who was wrongfully imprisoned over allegations that fell flat to many of her supporters and supporters of the Palestinian cause.