Four Marines accused of raping Japanese teenager remain in jail
October 26, 2007
Four Marines accused of gang-raping a Japanese teenager Oct. 14 in Hiroshima remained jailed Wednesday at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni while a midnight curfew has been imposed on all active-duty servicemembers.
Base officials say they are cooperating with Japanese police in the rape allegation.
A Japanese woman reported that she was raped by four men in Hiroshima during the early hours of Oct. 14, and the local police investigation led to the four Marines. However, no formal charges had been filed as of Wednesday.
Maj. Guillermo Canedo, the air station spokesman, said Hiroshima Prefecture police and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are working jointly on the case. But base officials and Hiroshima police would not discuss details of the woman’s allegations.
Canedo said the midnight curfew was imposed due to the rape allegation and a separate investigation in Iwakuni involving a drunken Marine who allegedly threw a beer bottle at a taxi Friday night.
All residents must return to the air station by midnight until the curfew is lifted, according to a memorandum circulated on base.
If the investigation results in arrest warrants, the U.S. military will decide whether it will turn custody of the four Marines over to Japanese authorities.
Under the Status of Forces agreement between Japan and the U.S., servicemembers charged with crimes by Japanese officials remain in military custody until indicted if they were detained on military property.
However, a “gentlemen’s agreement” was reached to hand over suspects accused of violent crimes after the public outcry caused by the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa girl by two Marines and a Navy medic in 1995.
High-level discussions between the U.S. and Japan over custody of the Iwakuni Marines occurred in Tokyo this week, Canedo said.
But no decision on custody was issued Wednesday to U.S. Forces Japan, and the military is continuing its cooperation with its host country, said Master Sgt. Terence Peck, a spokesman for USFJ.
For now, the four men are being held in confinement cells at the base police office, Canedo said.
Neither base officials nor prefectural police would comment on whether the Marines have been questioned by Japanese police. They also remained mum on local media reports that evidence, including the car allegedly used in the rape, has been collected and shared.
So far, the rape report has not resulted in the kind of mass protests that took place on Okinawa following the 1995 incident. It remained unclear how the recent rape allegation would affect the sometimes tense relationship between the U.S. military and Iwakuni residents.
A local Japanese group opposed to base expansion plans said it will hold a rally on Monday. The group wants to “raise the voice of protest, so that such an incident will never happen again,” said Kiyoshi Okawa, one of the organizers of the protest.
The rally will include a video of the massive anti-base protests on Okinawa in 1995, Okawa said.
Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.