Okinawa rocked by new rape case

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The Independent Online
The US forces have confirmed that another serviceman on the island of Okinawa has been charged with raping a girl, three days before the reopening of a gang-rape trial that has undermined the Japanese-US military relationship.

Senior Airman Anthony Williams, 24, has been charged under US military law with rape and indecent acts involving an under-age girl and with supplying alcohol to minors. The attack took place after a party last month at Kadena air base. The victim is American, the 14-year-old daughter of another airman at the base.

On Monday a court in Naha, Okinawa's capital, will hear closing arguments in the trial of three servicemen charged with raping a 12-year-old Japanese in September. The case caused uproar and prompted calls for the US presence on the island to be cut. In November the Defense Secretary, William Perry, visited Tokyo to try to calm the waters. The issue will head the agenda when President Bill Clinton meets Ryutaro Hashimoto, the Prime Minister, in April. A joint group is to discuss "consolidation" and possible relocation of some facilities but both sides say overall troop levels are not up for negotiation.

Yesterday's announcement underlines the danger that, just as the US is mending fences over the September rape, another case will reinforce calls for troop cuts. It is the third reported rape since September but the first in which charges have been brought. Women's groups in Japan say many cases never get to court, because of shame on the part of the Japanese victim or cover-ups by the military.

The Stars and Stripes military newspaper gave the outlines of last month's attack. The mother of the girl was quoted as saying officers, including her husband's commanding officer, had discouraged the family from publicising the case. "He said this could blow up bigger than the O J Simpson case and that they'd never be able to get an impartial jury."

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