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20-Year Prison Sentence for Japanese Red Army Leader


A Tokyo court has sentenced the founder of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group to 20 years in prison for her role in an attack on a French embassy in the 1970s.

Fusako Shigenobu received the 20-year jail sentence for kidnapping and attempted murder in connection with the Japanese Red Army's seizure of the French embassy in the Netherlands in 1974.

The 60-year old Shigenobu founded the Japanese Red Army in 1969. The ultra-leftist group grew out of the 1960s anti-Vietnam war movement and had close ties to Palestinian militants.

During the 1970s and '80s, the group carried out a series of terrorist attacks around the world. The most notorious was an attack on the airport in Tel Aviv in 1972, which killed 26 people. The group's activities also included hijackings of Japanese planes and an attempted takeover of the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The group's last major attack was a bombing at a U.S. military facility in Italy in 1988.

Several members of the Japanese Red Army have since been arrested, some of them in the Middle East.

Shigenobu, once called one of the world's most feared female terrorists, was captured in 2000 in western Japan, after nearly three decades on the run.

Hiro Katsumata, an expert on Japanese politics at Singapore's Nanyang University, says several members of the group have been in North Korea since 1970.

"They hijacked an airplane a few decades ago and went to North Korea and are still there," he said. "That's one of the issues on the agenda in the negotiations between Japan and North Korea for the normalization of diplomatic relations."

But Katsumata says the extradition issue is not on top of the agenda in the negotiations between the two countries.

He says that while the Japanese Red Army was a major issue in the 1970s and 1980s, most people in Japan are not very interested in the issue anymore and do not care much about what happens to the group's former members.