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Local mayors demand full investigation of Marine

Date Posted: 2008-03-02

Women’s groups and central Okinawa mayors are displeased with the Japanese government decision to drop charges against a Marine accused of raping a young teenager last month, and are demanding more answers from the U.S. military.
The mayor of Okinawa City, where the alleged rape incident began February 10th near the Baskin-Robbins at Koza Music Town says she is sorry “I couldn’t protect the girl” from having her privacy invaded. Mitsuko Tomon isn’t happy with the government move, adding “My heart is painful for the girl.” The mayor of Chatan Town, where the alleged rape occurred, is angry, demanding to know “Why was he released?” Masaharu Noguni says “The offense report was presented from the victim to police, and there should have been more investigation.”
Tokujitsu Miyagi, Kadena Town’s mayor, warns “we need to care about the girl, and at the same time watch how the American military is going to take care of the suspect.” Miyagi says “we have to watch and follow what is going on, but at the same time we must remember there is a human rights problem here.” The mayor of Nakagusuku Village does not want to let the incident die, insisting “we need to let people outside Okinawa know about our angry minds, and show up to appeal (the decision to drop charges).” Seitoku Arakaki says “we don’t want this scandal to go up in smoke. American reform should be requested with everybody.”
Leaders of Okinawa Prefecture Women’s Union, who have been spearheading plans for a March 23rd protest demonstration against the U.S. military, say they “understand about the girl’s mind and her family,” and say the Friday night decision to release the Marine staff sergeant accused in the case back to American military control “is really confusing.” Haruko Kowatari says “our minds are the same as before, and we will strongly conduct the protest about this scandal.”
The women’s groups had been deciding whether to go forward with the demonstration, particularly after the ruling Liberal Democracy Party and its allies in the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly announced they would not support the rally. That decision effectively removes any participation by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima or Prefecture officials. A union member unhappy with the prefecture decision says “we need to appeal about the scandal by military men, not only in this case, but for cases in the future too.”
“We can never forgive the Americans,” says Representative Suzuyo Takazato. “We couldn’t support the girl at all. Surely her heart is broken, so we must make an official system to protect victims, or provide indemnity against damage.” Takazato noted if the government doesn’t adopt an effective program, “victims are going to choose silence more than asking punishment for crimes.”
Okinawa City residents, who are at the heart of the firestorm of protest, have mixed views about what should happen now. “I think the girl became very disturbed that the scandal became such big news,” said one businessman. “Both governments got involved and top people from both sides apologized and newspapers made it a big story.”
Okinawa City itself has become a virtual ghost town, with businesses feeling the pinch from the military-directed lockdown of its personnel that confines all GI’s, government civilians and family members to the bases and their residences. Gate 2 Street, noted one businessman, is “very silent, even on the weekend.” A taxi driver says “sales went down so much, we want the lockout action stopped now. Otherwise, we can’t make a living at all.” Taxi drivers point out that a taxi stand on Gate 2 Street, which usually has 10 or more taxis awaiting customers, are now sitting idle.
Koza Music Town says young people are avoiding the location, despite its having a lot of live music programs. A spokesman says “tourists are not even coming” to Koza Music Town, and “there are only a few people listening.” The spokesman says the “economic situation is kind of shaky.”

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