TOKYO: Fusako Shigenobu, the 76-year-old female founder of the once-feared Japanese Red Army, walked free from prison on Saturday after completing a 20-year sentence for a 1974 embassy siege.
Shigenobu was one of the world's most notorious women during the 1970s and 1980s, when her radical leftist group carried out armed attacks worldwide in support of the Palestinian cause.
Shigenobu left the prison in Tokyo in a black car with her daughter as several supporters held a banner saying "We love Fusako".
"I apologise for the inconvenience my arrest has caused to so many people," Shigenobu told reporters after the release.
"It's half a century ago... but we caused damage to innocent people who were strangers to us by prioritising our battle, such as by hostage-taking," she said.
She is believed to have masterminded the 1972 machine gun and grenade attack on Tel Aviv's Lod Airport, which left 26 people dead and injured about 80.
The former soy-sauce company worker turned militant was arrested in Japan in 2000 and sentenced to two decades behind bars six years later for her part in a siege of the French Embassy in the Netherlands.
She had lived as a fugitive in the Middle East for around 30 years before resurfacing in Japan.
Shigenobu's daughter May, born in 1973 to a father from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), hailed her mother's release on social media.
Shigenobu maintained her innocence over the siege, in which three Red Army militants stormed into the French Embassy, taking the ambassador and 10 other staff hostage for 100 hours.
Two police officers were shot and seriously wounded. France ended the standoff by freeing a jailed Red Army guerilla, who flew off with the hostage-takers in a plane to Syria.
Shigenobu did not take part in the attack personally but the court said she coordinated the operation with the PFLP.
Born into poverty in post-war Tokyo, Shigenobu was the daughter of a World War II major who became a grocer after Japan's defeat. - AFP