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Came to Defend Okamoto Japanese Lawyer Barred from Israel; Background Suspect

June 20, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Police at Lydda Airport refused entry late last night to Hiroshi Shoji, a Japanese lawyer who claimed he was engaged by the family of Kozo Okamoto to defend the “kamikaze” gunman captured in the Lydda Airport massacre May 30. Police acted on orders from the Interior Ministry which checked Shoji’s record and found him to be linked to extreme leftist and anarchist groups in Japan.

The Japanese lawyer was aboard a BOAC plane that arrived at Lydda shortly before midnight. He was restricted to the plane during its 45-minute lay-over and was aboard when it took off for its next destination. Teheran. Shoji, who spoke fluent English, exchanged angry words with the police inspector who informed him of the ban and vowed that he would “find another way to enter Israel.”

Israeli sources expressed doubt that Shoji was engaged by Okamoto’s family and said his trip to Israel may have been arranged by extremist organizations. His past record revealed that he was involved in an espionage affair in Japan after which he resigned from a post he held in the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The sources said that if Okamoto’s family wishes to send a lawyer to assist in his defense, the individual would be checked out before a decision was made to admit him to the country. Under Israeli law only a member of the Israeli bar may appear in court but a foreign lawyer may assist him.

It appeared today that the military tribunal that will try Okamoto will have to appoint a lawyer to defend him. The Israel Bar Association has had no success so far in finding a lawyer to take the case. Yaacob Hagler, the Tel Aviv attorney assigned as defense counsel, resigned Saturday because the prisoner allegedly refused to cooperate. According to Israeli penal law, a defendant is entitled to the best possible legal advice. A military spokesman said today that the military tribunal would name a defense counsel if the Bar Association failed. There were indications that the tribunal had in mind a prominent lawyer who is a member of the Army Reserve and would be called to active duty for the trial.

Okamoto will not face the death penalty. The tribunal has only one lawyer. Israeli law requires at least two to impose capital punishment.

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