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December 30, 2010 / Richard Smart

Japan and terrorism – the emerging story

So far, the documents that mention Japan in the Wikileaks U.S. State Department cables have proven by and large a dull affair. One man, however, stands out – Lionel Dumont.

Clearly, Dumont ought to be avoided. A former French soldier, Dumont converted to Islam after serving in Somalia. After this, his life took him to war-torn Yugoslavia, where he would be arrested and convicted of murdering a police officer. Escaping from jail in Sarajevo, Dumont fled to Japan, where he was eventually arrested before being extradited to France, where he was convicted of a number of violent crimes in absentia.

The picture painted of Dumont and the risk of a Japan terrorist cell in the cables, however, is very different to that described by correspondents based here.

According to one cable: “Dumont spent a number of years in Japan, and is suspected of building links there to Islamic extremism.” This, argues the U.S. State Department, demonstrates that “Islamic political extremism in France takes on many forms: it has bubbled up on its own, in cooperation with other autonomous groups, and also in cooperation with al-Qaida linked groups.”

Months before, another cable had explained how at a dinner with French terrorism investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Dumont’s name had been mentioned in connection to an increase in terrorism in Asia.

Bruguiere … cited Asia as a particular area of  concern. He and (his coworker Jean-Francois) Ricard had discovered a Japan-based network after arresting and interrogating French citizen and longtime Japanese resident Lionel Dumont.

But to what extent the State Department can use Japan as an example of a country that is at risk of becoming the center for a terrorist plot is up for question. In a description of the investigation by the Associated Press, Eric Talmadge notes:

“Dumont is suspected of trying to establish an al-Qaeda cell to carry out a terrorist attack, Japanese media have reported, quoting anonymous police officials who called him a ‘senior al-Qaeda member.’

“But French authorities say that is ‘largely exaggerated.'”

It certainly does not seem that any terrorist organization was found to be operational in Japan. In an interview with The Japan Times, one man arrested in the investigation that followed the capture of Dumont protests his innocence and explains the damage the investigation did to his family and his business.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Muslims affected by a recent leak of police investigations in Japan. Those Muslims have said they are shocked by investigations into their community, that seem to have led to dead ends.

Whether Wikileaks will give us a more detailed idea of the “war on terrorism” over the coming months is as yet unknown. There are, however, 166 cables set to be released from Tokyo labeled “terrorists and terrorism (PTER).” Current documents and knowledge of Japan’s “war on terrorism,” however, suggest there is little to fear living in this country, unless you are a Muslim.

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