TEL AVIV (Jul. 10)
The trial of Kozo Okamoto opened today with a confession from the Japanese “kamikaze” gunman captured in the Lydda Airport massacre. “On May 30, 1972, I, Kozo Okamoto, together with two other persons whose names I have forgotten opened fire at the Lydda Airport terminal. I do not know how many people were killed,” he said.
The admission of guilt came as a surprise to defense lawyer Max Kritzman, who had advised him not to reply to the question of his guilt. This left Kritzman with no other alternative than to ask the court to appoint a medical psychiatric commission to examine whether Okamoto was fully sane at the time of the massacre. Okamoto, who made his confession in Japanese with the aid of a translator, seemed quite pleased with himself at the sight of his lawyer’s attempts to persuade the court to appoint the committee. He said that he did not want the committee.
The trial opened fifty minutes behind schedule in a long wooden barrack at the military base at Sarafand converted to a courthouse. The base was constructed in the days of the British mandate as a central military base for British troops after World War I. The long hall is specially equipped to accommodate the over 200 newsmen, cameramen and television crews who are attending the trial.
Strict security measures are in effect and no flashbulbs are permitted. The defendant was seated in a small wooden box reinforced with a breast high steel plate. The television cameras are positioned along one side of the hall on a raised platform.
The opening session of the trial lacked any aura of the tragedy that Okamoto and his companions brought to the Lydda victims and their families. The atmosphere was legalistic as Kritzman instructed the court that it need not ask Okamoto if he confesses or denies guilt.
In addition to admitting that he killed tourists and citizens, Okamoto said that he had killed policemen. He said that he was acting in the service of the Japanese Red Army which is in partnership with the Arab liberation movement.
The court went into consultations and later decided to accept the defense counsel request for a psychiatric commission. The appointees to the commission will be announced later. Okamoto is charged on four counts: membership in a group that discharged firearms and grenades causing death to 26 persons, discharging firearms, throwing grenades, and performing these services for an unlawful association. All charges are under defense regulations dating back to British mandate times.