On March 17, 2000 four members of the Japanese Red Army organization who had served out three-year prison sentences in Lebanon for forging identification papers were handcuffed and blindfolded and told they were being transfered to a different prison. Provided Lebanese passports with valid Jordanian visas, the four, escorted by security personnel, boarded a flight to the Jordanian captial.
Despite their legal travel documents, Jordan "refused" the Japanese entry. Yet it did not send them back where they came from, as is usual, but whisked them off to a specially chartered Russian airplane bound for Tokyo, Japan, where they were immediately taken to prison.
This underhanded official "kidnapping" followed months of legal proceedings during which Japan requested, and was denied, the right to extradite the four militants, plus their comrade, Kozo Okamoto, to Tokyo. Their prison sentences in Lebanon ended on March 7, whereupon all five Japanese militants were due for release. Official Japan's battle to re-imprison the militants seemed to be lost.
Later, the Lebanese government held hearings to determine whether the militants, who had joined the Arab struggle against Zionist aggression, could be granted political asylum. The outcome of this legal procedure was to grant asylum to the most prominent of the Red Army members, Kozo Okamoto, but to deny asylum to the other four, Haruo Wako, Masao Adachi, Kazuo Tohira, and Mariko Yamamoto. Shortly thereafter the four found themselves behind bars in Japan.
The many Arab supporters of the Red Army militants were caught unawares by the virtual kidnapping. Even Omayya Abboud, the Lebanese wife of one of the Red Armymen, only heard the news when her husband was en route to Jordan. Outraged demonstrators poured into the streets of Beirut, however, as word of the events spread, and clashes with the police resulted in several injuries.
Progressive opinion rallied to the support of the doublecrossed militants, all of whom had risked life and limb in struggle against Zionism and Imperialism and for Arab rights. Setting the tone of the response was "al-Hadaf" magazine, official publication of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Below is an English translation of an article from "al-Hadaf" regarding the case of the Red Army four.
On Friday 17 March, four militants of the Japanese Red Army were handed over to Tokyo, via Amman, Jordan, to begin thereby a new chapter in the ongoing story of their painful afflictions.
There is no doubt that this hand-over aroused an unending series of explanations, suppositions, and doubts, all of which centered on the suspicious way in which the four were handed over -- in a manner much like a kidnapping. The operation took place secretly on a Friday, the second day of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha at a time when no one was expecting it.
While we welcome the decision of the Lebanese government to grant political asylum to the militant Kozo Okamoto, we express our sharp regret that his four comrades were denied this right although they were also in the same trench with the Palestinian people and the Arab nation in its confrontation with Zionist aggression.
For sure what happened shows up clearly how weak the Arabs and their patriotic forces have become. This weakness was reflected in their inability to protect individuals who were defending the nation, even though they did not, by their identities, belong to it. They belonged to its cause, rather, by virtue of their pioneering revolutionary principles and ethics.
We must also declare our intense condemnation and indignation at those who stood behind the plot, at those who were content to take on this disgrace, whoever they may be, as we affirm anew our solidarity in all possible forms with those who never spared anything in their solidarity with us.
The task now becomes one of working to mobilize legal institutions and human rights organizations to carry on the struggle -- in Japan this time -- to protect the militants, to defend them, and to make their case as prisoners of conscience known, so that they might not again become the victims in an operation of settling accounts led by the American imperialists as they track down all those who cried "No!" in the face of the military arrogance of America and its allies.
"al-Hadaf" No. 1304, 26 March 2000.