Marines jailed for rape that strained US links to Japan

RICHARD LLOYD PARRY

Tokyo

Three American servicemen were jailed yesterday for the gang-rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl, at the end of a case which has outraged Japan and undermined security ties between Tokyo and Washington.

Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, 23, and Marine Private Rodrico Harp, 21, were sentenced to seven years for the abduction and rape of the schoolgirl in the southern island of Okinawa on 4 September last year. A third serviceman, Marine Private Kendrick Ledet, 20, received a lighter sentence of six and a half years on the grounds that although he tried to rape the girl he was incapable of intercourse.

The leader of the three-judge panel, Shinei Nagamine, described the crime as "vicious".

The victim was walking home from a shopping expedition in northern Okinawa when she was bundled into a hired car by the three men who drove her to a nearby beach and took turns raping her. Prosecutors had called for 10- year terms for the men, but the sentences were still stiff by the standards of Japan, where rapists typically go down for three or four years.

The crime unleashed emotions in Okinawa. Three months before the rape, Okinawans had marked the 50th anniversary of the battle which killed 150,000 civilians in the dying days of the Second World War. For 27 years after, the island was part of the United States. Even after it reverted to Japan in 1972, the island continued to bear the overwhelming burden of American forces. Okinawa amounts to less than 1 per cent of Japan's total area, but houses up to 29,000 of the 47,000 US troops stationed in the country.

The outrage was compounded when the US authorities refused to hand the suspects over to the Japanese police, under a bilateral agreement which allows servicemen to remain in military custody until indictment. For several weeks there were demonstrations, culminating in a rally in October at which 85,000 Okinawans called for the withdrawal of the US bases. The pressure increased when the Socialist governor of Okinawa, Masahide Ota, refused to sign documents necessary for the leasing of the land occupied by the US military.

The affair has revived calls for the abandonment of the US- Japan Security Treaty, regarded by Washington as its most important military alliance. Last November the US Defense Secretary, William Perry, was forced to make a special visit to calm the waters. The subject will be high on the agenda when the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, entertains President Bill Clinton at a summit in Tokyo next month. A joint committee has been set up to consider ways of reducing Okinawa's burden.

For the time being, both sides insist the number of US troops in Japan will not be reduced, but units may be relocated on the Japanese mainland. Last month, a US general conceded that plans were being considered to relocate American forces in the Pacific to Darwin, northern Australia.

Even after yesterday's sentencing, the affair is not over. American lawyers representing the three men said they would appeal. Throughout the trial there have been claims of forced confessions and legal irregularities.

"The system of interrogations, for 23 days in this particular case, without the assistance of an attorney is a rotten system, which must change," said Michael Griffith, an American attorney.

An application to transfer the hearing elsewhere, on the grounds that inflamed public opinion made a fair trial in Okinawa impossible, was earlier rejected by the Su- preme Court. An American Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the trial.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent