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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Okinawa rape case sparks resentment


Staff writer

A U.S. Marine who allegedly raped a 14-year-old Okinawa girl was turned over to prosecutors Tuesday in a case that has prompted government officials to voice outrage and warn the incident could affect the Japan-U.S. alliance and the reorganization of U.S. bases in the prefecture.

The arrest Monday of Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hadnott, 38, for the suspected rape of a local junior high school girl Sunday night has rekindled memories of the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa girl by three U.S. servicemen, an incident that triggered mass resentment against the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

Hadnott, based at Camp Courtney, has reportedly denied the accusation.

He is suspected of raping the girl in his car while parked on a street in Chatan at around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. He reportedly approached the girl at around 8:30 p.m. when she was with two friends in a downtown area of the city of Okinawa and rode off with her on his motorbike after offering her a ride home.

Hadnott allegedly took her to his home instead and tried to rape her. The girl started crying and he then took her to his car, saying he would drive her home, police said.

The girl's friends, who were present when Hadnott rode off with her on his motorcycle, reportedly called her mobile phone several times out of concern. They called police at 10:20 p.m. after the girl answered one of their calls and said "help me" before hanging up, Okinawa police said.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, appearing before a Diet committee Tuesday, described the incident as "unforgivable."

"This is not just a crime (allegedly) involving an American soldier. This is an issue that will affect the basis of the Japan-U.S. alliance," Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters.

"I think it will require more than just asking the U.S. to reinforce discipline (in the military) and prevent a recurrence," Ishiba said.

In 1995, a 12-year-old girl was raped by three U.S. servicemen, triggering strong protests in Okinawa, which eventually led to the 1996 agreement by both countries on a large-scale relocation of the U.S. bases in Okinawa, including the transfer of the Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the prefecture.

Ishiba stressed the need for greater involvement by the Japanese government in efforts to ensure the effectiveness of preventive steps taken by the U.S. military.

"The U.S. says they will take countermeasures to prevent a recurrence every time wrongdoings by U.S. servicemen come to light, but I will watch them with indignation to see whether they can truly carry out those measures," Ishiba said.

"I'm not saying that the U.S. is not serious about these incidents . . . but in reality, such an incident happened again, which raises the question of what the U.S. has done in the past."

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said the incident could affect the planned realignment of the U.S. military bases in Japan.

"I think we've had enough of these incidents," he said. "The issue of discipline in the U.S. military will remain important wherever the U.S. bases are relocated. They should follow strict discipline."

On Monday, Shinichi Nishimiya, the director general of the North American affairs bureau at the Foreign Ministry, communicated with Joseph Donovan, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, and asked the U.S. to strengthen discipline of its military to prevent a recurrence.

Information from Kyodo added



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