January 14, 1998 in Nation/World

Tokyo Stock Exchange Hostage Freed Demands Unmet; Rightist Surrenders After Six Hours

Joji Sakurai Associated Press
 

An armed rightist held a hostage for six hours Tuesday at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, then surrendered and told police he was trying to stop government measures allowing wider competition in Japan’s financial industry.

Not only did he fall short of his goal, but he couldn’t even stop stock trading downstairs.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the intruder, Tetsuo Itagaki, was served tea and calmly greeted the deputy comptroller of the exchange during a meeting in his 14th-floor office. Then a shot, fired into the ceiling, rang out.

Itagaki, identified by police as the former leader of an ultranationalist group, locked hostage Masahiro Abe in the room and demanded a meeting with Japan’s finance minister and a halt to trading on the building’s lower floors.

But the market continued trading until its the usual time of 3 p.m., closing slightly higher.

By nightfall, about 400 police, including riot squads in helmets and bulletproof vests, were deployed inside and around the stock exchange. About 1,400 people work in the 15-story building, located in the center of the capital’s crowded financial district.

Police vehicles lined the street, and agents carrying hammers and other gear appeared to be ready to break into the executive office if necessary.

But the intruder released Abe unharmed after six hours.

Itagaki, 41, said he wanted to stop the government’s “big bang” deregulation efforts, said a police spokesman, who identified himself only by his surname, Nishiyama.

One aim of the measures is to invigorate Japan’s financial industry, whose troubles with bad debts and scandals have been a major reason for increasing gloom over Japan’s sagging economy.

The market has been volatile for months amid Asia’s regional economic turmoil and a string of high-profile bankruptcies in Japan.

Itagaki has been arrested in rightist attacks in the past, including the 1985 firebombing of a Defense Agency facility to protest construction of a U.S. military housing project, police said.

Rightists who call for a return to Japan’s militarist past have a long history of violence and intimidation. They often have been linked to attacks and threats against government officials and other critics.


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