Fusako Shigenobu, who co-founded the Japanese Red Army terror group, was released from prison on Saturday after serving a 20-year sentence and apologized for hurting innocent people.
She was released just two days before the 50th anniversary of the terror group’s deadly attack at Lod airport that killed 26 people and injured dozens more.
“I have a deep feeling that I finally got out alive,” she said, greeted by her daughter and a crowd of reporters and supporters in Tokyo, some waving Palestinian flags.
“I hurt innocent people I didn’t know by bringing our struggles to the fore. Although it was a different time, I would like to take this opportunity to deeply apologize,” said Shigenobu, who was draped in a keffiyeh – the Arab headdress which has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
Shigenobu was found guilty of orchestrating the 1974 siege of the French Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands. She was arrested in 2000 in Osaka, central Japan, where she was hiding.
The Japanese Red Army, formed in 1971 and linked to Palestinian terrorist groups, was behind a 1972 machine gun and grenade attack on Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.
Three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by a Palestinian terrorist group opened fire and threw grenades at Lod airport, killing eight Israelis and 16 foreign tourists.
The Japanese Red Army also took responsibility for several other attacks, including the takeover of the American consulate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1975.
Shigenobu was not physically present in the attacks. A year after her arrest, she declared the group disbanded. Japanese media reported that Shigenobu underwent surgery for cancer while incarcerated.
Kozo Okamoto, who was injured and arrested in the Israeli airport attack, was released in 1985 in a prisoner swap between Israeli and Palestinian forces. He would be in Lebanon.
Okamoto and several other members of the group are still wanted by Japanese authorities for their alleged role in bombings of the 1970s and 1980s, including the airport terror attack in Israel.