Japanese fugitive on the run for 45 years is arrested

  • Published
Masaaki Osaka arrives at Tokyo's Haneda airport (07 June 2017)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Police say they have confirmed the identity of Mr Osaka through DNA tests

For one suspected murderer in Japan, it has been a case of being able to run but not being able to hide.

Left-wing revolutionary Masaaki Osaka has been arrested and charged for murdering a police officer during Tokyo street protests more than 45 years ago.

He allegedly set the officer on fire using a Molotov Cocktail petrol bomb.

No other suspected criminal has spent longer evading arrest, Japanese media report. The country has no statute of limitations for murder.

The 15-year time limit was abolished in 2010.

Mr Osaka was arrested last month in a Hiroshima apartment belonging to the Chukaku-ha, or the Japan Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL). He is reported by police to have remained silent since being caught.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Masaaki Osaka has been wanted by police since the early 1970s

The fugitive was initially accused of a separate offence - obstructing the police - before officers claim to have realised who he was.

On Wednesday, he was transported from Hiroshima to Tokyo for further questioning, local media reported.

Police say they have confirmed his identity through DNA tests because fingerprints were unavailable at the time of the crime.

They say Mr Osaka was able to remain on the run for so long because he is a former high-ranking member of the radical left-wing JRCL and was assisted by sympathetic party associates.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The fugitive has appeared on wanted posters throughout the last four decades

The JRCL was established in the late 1950s and during the 1960s and 1970s earned a reputation for staging violent street protests.

Mr Osaka is accused of killing the 21-year-old police officer during a left wing riot in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward in 1971. He is alleged to have assaulted him with a steel pipe before setting him alight.

The JRCL was protesting - among other things - against the recognition by Japan of the US military presence in the country.

The man alleged to be Mr Osaka's accomplice in the 1971 attack was charged in 1972, but his case was suspended because of mental illness.

Major events in Japan while Masaaki Osaka has been on the run:

  • 1972 - Japanese prime minister visits China and normal diplomatic relations are resumed
  • 1993 - Government issues historic "Kono statement" apologising for Japanese military's war-time use of sex slaves
  • 1995 - An earthquake hits central Japan, killing thousands
  • 2011 February- Japan is overtaken by China as world's second-largest economy
  • 2011 March - Huge offshore earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastate miles of shoreline - damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant causes a radiation leak
  • 2014 - Japan's government approves a landmark change in security policy, paving the way for its military to fight overseas