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Sunday, Mar. 22, 2009

READERS IN COUNCIL

Questions remain in murky case


Sagamihara, Kanagawa

Regarding a reader's response to my March 3 article, "Rape victim fights for justice against U.S. military, Japan": It's generally a bad idea to get involved in spats with anonymous letter writers, but the March 12 letter "Questions about an alleged rape" contains such a litany of accusations, I feel I have to reply.

"Jane's" attacker was found guilty in a 2004 Tokyo civil suit and, therefore, can legally be named, as he has repeatedly in domestic and foreign publications. He has declined to return to Japan and pay the ¥3 million fine imposed.

On my "preposterous" use of statistics (regarding the statement that Japan "is home to over 80 American bases and about 33,000 troops"), if anything I erred on the side of caution. According to a recent Japan Times sketch on the U.S. presence, there are 87 facilities "exclusively" used by the U.S. military in Japan, covering an area roughly half the size of Tokyo. My figure of 33,000 troops is considered low by most observers. As the letter writer surely knows, comparative statistics on crime rates are a highly contested area and would require a separate article to do them justice.

As for my reference to the "secret agreement" (that Jane says allows crimes of U.S. military personnel, in the world's most powerful military alliance, "to go unpunished"), I have cited the work of researcher Shoji Niihara, again widely covered in the domestic and foreign press and who gave a joint press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. I will let Niihara defend himself, but it hardly seems unlikely that Japan and the U.S. authorities might wish to minimize the impact of the U.S. military presence in Japan, nor that they would want to keep such an agreement under wraps.

The lack of DNA evidence in the case is indeed puzzling. According to Jane, the police eventually took her discarded underwear as evidence, though it was useless because it was removed during the attack and never put back on. I suggest that this and other errors in the investigation support her claims that the police simply didn't take the assault seriously.

The rest of the questions in the letter can be thrown back to the Japanese and U.S. authorities: Why was the suspect discharged and allowed to slip out of Japan in 2002? Why was he released and not charged, despite Jane's claim that the authorities must have known he was facing a civil suit? These questions remain unanswered, hence the "murkiness" of the case.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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