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No plea in gay murder case

(First Edition)

YOKOSUKA (AFP) - An American sailor accused of murdering a homosexual shipmate near a naval base in Japan entered no plea during the first public hearing of his general court martial.

Terry Helvey, 21, an airman apprentice, is charged with beating Allen Schindler to death in a park near the Sasebo naval base in October. Both sailors were serving on an amphibious assault vessel, the USS Belleau Wood.

Schindler's murder has become a focus for Americans supporting President Bill Clinton's promise to end a ban on homosexuals in the military. Shortly before he was killed, Schindler had informed his commanding officer that he was gay and was waiting to be discharged.