New York, February 2: A suspected Japanese terrorist was secretly working with Libya to detonate bombs at three sites in Manhattan, including a Navy recruiting office, when he was arrested last April, a federal prosecutor said today.
New details involving Yu Kikumura, convicted in November without offering a defense, emerged as prosecutors and defense lawyers prepared for his sentencing Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark.
In a confidential presentencing memorandum, the government charged that Kikumura is a member of the Japanese Red Army who was secretly working with agents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi seeking retaliation for the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya, according to Samuel A. Alito, U.S. attorney in Newark.
The government alleged that a map with three pinholes, found in Kikumura's car, showed that his targets were the United Nations, the Manhattan garment district and a Navy recruiting office. His goal was `mass slaughter,' prosecutors charged in their 32-page memo.
Ronald L. Kuby, Kikumura's attorney, called the charges `wild and unsubstantiated speculation' and said, `We categorically deny that he was planning to injure or kill people.'
Kuby said in his presentencing memo that prosecutors had resorted to `innuendo and guesswork' in an attempt to link Kikumura to Libyan terrorists.
Alito agreed to confirm the government's findings after being told that many of the details were cited in the defense memo, made available to The Washington Post. This is the first time that prosecutors have discussed publicly the alleged nature of Kikumura's mission.
Kikumura, 36, was arrested last April 12 at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike by a state trooper who thought he was acting suspiciously. Kikumura, apparently heading for Manhattan, was found to be carrying three 18-inch pipe bombs loaded with gunpowder.
At a brief nonjury trial in November, Kikumura did not contest several federal charges, the most serious of which was transporting explosives with intent to kill.
Alito noted that Kikumura's arrest came two days short of the second anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Libya. Two days after the arrest, five people were killed in the bombing of a USO club in Naples, Italy. A Japanese Red Army member was the chief suspect.
`The Japanese Red Army was carrying out retaliatory bombings for the Libyan air strike,' Alito said. He said a State Department report recently noted the group's role `in doing Gadhafi's bidding.'
The govenrment memo alleged that a confidential informant reported having seen Kikumura, wearing a ski mask, training in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley with several other masked persons who later went to Libya.
Kurby denied this and, in his memo, assailed `the government's imaginative attempts to bootstrap this into the much-discussed `Libyan terrorism' . . . Because the bombs were not planted or detonated, the prosecution feels free to conjure up scenarios of `mass slaughter.'
While federal sentencing guidelines call for Kikumura to receive a prison term of 27 to 33 months, prosecutors have asked that U.S. District Court Judge Alfred J. Lechner sentence him to spend most of his life in prison.
Kuby said he asked that the govenment be required to prove its terrorism allegations at a court hearing. `The Constitution does not permit imprisonment by innuendo,' he said.
Alito said such a hearing would jeopardize confidential sources and hinder terrorism probes. `It's hard enough to get confidential informants to tell you what's going on in places like the Japanese Red Army,' he said.
Alito said the sentencing guidelines `don't take into account the nature of the bombs he had, what he intended to do with the bombs or the fact that he's an international terrorist. I don't think you'd find a judge in the country who would give this guy two or three years.'
Kuby declined to say why his client was carrying three powerful bombs in the back seat of a 1980 auto.