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U.S. Marine Suspected of Arson

Date Posted: 2001-02-16

The Japanese police have accused a Marine stationed at Camp Hansen of setting fire to a bar and a restaurant in the Kitamae bar area on Jan. 15. However, the military authorities initially refused to hand the suspect over to the Japanese custody before indictment by the prosecutorís office, citing SOFA regulations. Their refusal has reportedly angered local authorities and the media, prompting Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine to urge the Marineís commanding general to expedite the matter. According to local press reports, Lt. General Earl Hailston, upon formally apologizing for the incident, promised to consider the request.

According to the police investigation, the Marine set fire to the restaurant and four hours later started another fire in a bar. Both establishments were closed at the time and suffered only minor damage. The man is also accused of setting fire to five bars and restaurants five days later on Jan. 20.

A witness supposedly saw the Marine run away from the first fire, only to return later on to assist the fire brigade in putting out the fire. Because of the eyewitness account, the Okinawa City Police called the Marine in for questioning to Okinawa Police Station a total of ten times. Finally the base authorities refused to let him go another time. The Okinawa Police then issued an arrest warrant, but the military refused to release the suspect unless he was officially indicted by the prosecutors.

The accused allegedly admitted to starting the fires during questioning, claiming that he was driven to do it because he was the victim of bullying by his peers.

The investigators also say that he started the other five fires on Jan. 20 after the bar owner whose bar he set to fire in the first place refused to let him in and he became enraged. The police also say that on the same evening one of the restaurant owners whose shop the man tried to burn down, gave a chase on that evening, but was unable to catch the man.

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