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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan apologized to Sasebo city officials this week about an incident in which a U.S. sailor has been accused of rape.

Rear Adm. Frederic R. Ruehe expressed his regret for the incident to Sasebo city’s mayor and deputy, Navy officials said.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Markies Steven Bates, 24, remained in Japanese custody Tuesday. The base postal clerk is accused of raping a 19-year-old Japanese woman Jan. 17 in Sasebo city. Police said they have forwarded the case to prosecutors for review.

Jon Nylander, CNFJ spokesman, said the visit was scheduled before the incident and that Ruehe also had called Sasebo Mayor Akira Mitsutake to express regret. Nylander characterized Monday’s visit as “pleasant and productive.”

Ruehe’s visit, so soon after the incident, was appreciated, said Masahide Haraguchi, Sasebo city’s base affairs department chief. The mayor asked Ruehe to take thorough discipline and educational measures, he said.

Some 70 members from a local woman’s group and a labor union gathered to protest the incident on Sunday, according to Asahi Shimbun. The demonstrators said they would demand an apology and compensation from the U.S. Forces for the victim, the paper said.

In a separate case, Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred Thomas O’Donnell, 21, of the USS Essex, was indicted and placed in custody on Dec. 25 for an indecent assault charge, an Amphibious Task Force 76 spokesman said last week. O’Donnell remains in Japanese custody; his trial is to start Feb. 18.

O’Donnell allegedly punched and knocked to the ground a 23-year-old Japanese woman and then tried to remove her clothes.

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

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