Aged 76 today, the one who was once nicknamed the “red queen” or “the empress of terror” had been arrested in 2000 in her native country, where she had returned illegally after having lived for thirty years in the Near East. She had proclaimed the dissolution of the ARJ from her prison cell in 2001.

Ms. Shigenobu left the prison where she was detained in Tokyo on Saturday in a black car with her daughter. Thirty of his supporters were present, carrying a banner reading “We love Fusako”, as well as a hundred journalists.

“It goes back half a century, but our fight, including hostage-taking, has caused innocent people to suffer,” Fusako Shigenobu said a few minutes later. “I apologize” for that, she added.

This far-left figure who advocated world revolution through armed struggle was sentenced in 2006 in Japan to twenty years’ imprisonment for having organized a hostage-taking at the French embassy in the Netherlands in 1974, which had lasted a hundred hours.

This hostage-taking in which Fusako Shigenobu had not directly participated had injured several police officers and forced France to release a member of the ARJ.

– Massacre and Israel –

During these events in The Hague, a grenade attack in the Drugstore Publicis in Paris left two dead and 34 injured. Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos, was again sentenced to life in September 2021 for this attack.

The ARJ was close to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), of which Carlos had become one of the armed arms in Europe.

Fusako Shigenobu is also suspected of having planned the killing at Lod-Tel Aviv airport (Israel) by an ARJ commando in 1972, a suicide operation with submachine guns and grenades which left 26 dead and nearly 80 casualties among civilians.

Born in Tokyo in 1945, Fusako Shigenobu had become an extreme left-wing activist almost by chance in 1965, when she was invited to a student sit-in in Japan in full swing against the Vietnam War and the Japanese-American security treaty.

The young woman quickly radicalized, taking the direction of the internationalist branch of an ephemeral Japanese revolutionary group a few years later, then founding the ARJ in Lebanon in 1971, where she was welcomed by the PFLP.

– Regrets in prison –

“Initially, I was not particularly pro-Arab or hostile to Israel. But (at the time, editor’s note) the Palestinian cause resonated in us, young people who were opposed to the Vietnam war and eager for social justice” , she told in a book dedicated to her only daughter, born in 1973 in Lebanon from an affair with an PFLP militant.

May Shigenobu has lived in Japan since 2001. She had come to her mother’s defense from the outset and supported her throughout her detention.

Without ever having acknowledged his involvement in the taking of hostages in The Hague, Fusako Shigenobu had expressed regrets in prison about the armed struggle to achieve his revolutionary ideals.

“Our hopes weren’t met and it ended horribly,” she said in a letter to the Japan Times in 2017.

“I think the Japanese are now even more apathetic on political issues than they used to be (…) and I think my actions and those of others (Japanese revolutionaries, editor’s note) have contributed to this. “, she had also estimated.

Until the late 1980s the ARJ carried out hostage takings, hijackings, bank robberies and attacks on embassies in Asia and Europe. Torn by internal disputes, the organization had gradually lost its influence, until its self-dissolution in 2001.

Japanese police continue to search for seven former members of the ARJ, including Kozo Okamoto, the only survivor of the perpetrators of the massacre at Lod-Tel Aviv airport 50 years ago and who has been granted political asylum in Lebanon.