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Protests, apologies follow Marine’s arrest for alleged rape

Date Posted: 2008-02-13

Hundreds of angry Okinawans marched in front of the Marine Corps Bases headquarters Tuesday, demanding Americans “Go away from Okinawa” following the arrest of a 38-year-old Marine non-commissioned officer on rape charges.
Protest leader Shiko Sakiyama of the Okinawa Peace Campaign Center led the multi-group demonstration by more than 300 irate citizens, voicing his anger, over the fact “America walked over Okinawan people’s human rights.”
He and other people marching at the military headquarters were expressing outrage over the arrest Monday of Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old schoolgirl Sunday evening. Hadnott has been in Japanese police custody since his apprehension several hours after the alleged rape in a Chatan Town park near the Araha Beach.
Hadnott, police say, picked the girl up about 8:30 p.m. Sunday near Koza Music Town in Okinawa City, promising her a ride on his motorcycle. He reportedly took the girl to his Kitanakagusuku home on the bike, then forced her down and tried to kiss her. When the young girl cried and tried to flee, police say the Marine took her in his car to the Chatan Town park and raped her. He fled, and police took the girl into protective custody shortly afterward. Her description of Hadnutt, his motorcycle and car, and his home near Awase Golf Course led to his being spotted and picked up about 2 a.m.
Kosuke Minami, chairman of the Okinawa Workers Association, a group not associated with base workers, echoed calls “We only want the American military to go away from Okinawa.” Politicians Keiko Itokazu and Suzuyo Takazato represented the Okinawa Women’s Union, and the Okinawa Teachers Association Chubu area insisted “We must not make this scandal only a girl’s self blame. It’s all about the American military’s problem.
Waves of protest were quick in coming from both central government officials and those on Okinawa. Governor Nakaima says “considering the fact the victim is a junior high school student, it is a serious crime.” Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tomon, long an anti-U.S. bases advocate, was angry. “It is absolutely unforgivable such a young child should have gone through such a terrible experience,” she said. Tomon and Chatan Town Mayor Masaharu Noguni presented letters of protest to US authorities in regard to the alleged rape by visiting the US military's Okinawa Area Field Office at Camp Zukeran, and the US Consulate General in Urasoe City.
Many details of the incident are muddled and often at odds from report to report, but Okinawa City Police say they accept the girl’s version of events, and will file rape charges. The deputy police chief told CNN the girl had managed to use her cell phone to call a friend about the rape, and the friend called police. Hadnott, police say, has denied raping the girl but admitted to forcing the girl down and kissing her.
The Foreign Ministry’s director general for North American Affairs has taken the case to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Shinichi Nishimiya expressed regrets over the Okinawa incident to the Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, and asked Joseph Donovan to improve discipline within the U.S. forces in Japan to prevent another incident.
Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, the commander of all American forces in Japan, says the U.S. is aware “of the serious allegations in Okinawa,” and noted the situation is being closely monitored “while fully cooperating with Japanese officials.” In a written statement, Wright said “If the allegations are true, our hearts are with the victim and family.”
The Commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, and the American Consul General on Okinawa, Kevin Maher, paid visits to Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, offering apologies for the incident. Zilmer pledged to “give strong ethics education and do more to all servicemen under my command.”
Okinawa officials are bracing for more protests today over the allegations, recalling the 1995 gang rape of a young schoolgirl by three American GI’s. That case stretched thin American-Okinawan relations.

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