Four Marines held at Iwakuni in alleged rape of Japanese woman
October 21, 2007
SASEBO, Japan — Four U.S. Marines were being detained Friday at the Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station after allegations they gang-raped a 19-year-old Japanese woman, according to a base spokesman, prefecture police and a Japanese chief cabinet secretary.
The victim says she was attacked and raped by the group of men early Oct. 14 in a Hiroshima neighborhood, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Friday.
Hiroshima prefecture police said the woman’s charges are under investigation, but declined to provide details or comment further. The Marine Corps and U.S. Forces Japan said they are cooperating with Japanese police.
The identities of the accused Marines were not released Friday.
“Four Marines are in confinement at the MCAS Iwakuni detention facility pursuant to the investigation,” said Maj. Guillermo Canedo, base spokesman. “We are cooperating fully with local authorities.”
Canedo would not elaborate on the incident and directed questions to Japanese authorities.
A spokesman for Machimura said the woman filed a claim of rape with Hiroshima police, but the police department refused to confirm whether a report was filed.
“From what I understand, it was an incident that occurred in the early hours of Sunday, when a Japanese woman was attacked and raped by a number of men,” Machimura said Friday during a news conference, according a spokesman for his office.
When asked about the incident, Air Force Maj. Denise Kerr, a U.S. Forces Japan spokeswoman at Yokota Air Base, said the command is “aware of the allegations.”
“The matter is being investigated,” she said. “We are cooperating fully with local authorities.”
The U.S. Embassy released a statement Friday acknowledging the alleged incident, but also refused to comment further.
“The U.S. Forces and U.S. government are committed to maintaining the highest standards of discipline for U.S. military personnel in Japan,” the release stated. The report is being taken “very seriously.”
Such charges could ratchet up Japanese concern over the military presence in Iwakuni, where relations are already tense.
“If it is true, it is very deplorable. Investigating the fact is an urgent issue,” Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara said, referring to the report during a news conference Friday, according to a spokesman for the city’s Military Affairs Office.
“We have too little information to make any concrete comment at this time,” the spokesman added.
Iwakuni is one of the last holdouts against a massive U.S.-Japanese military realignment plan that will affect 68 prefectures and municipalities throughout Japan and could add 4,000 more servicemembers to Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.
In 1995, two Marines and a Navy medic abducted and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl on Okinawa. The incident reignited anti-military sentiment on the island and led to the U.S. agreeing to return 21 percent of the land used for bases on Okinawa.
It also resulted in changes to the way American servicemembers are incarcerated in the days leading up to indictment in a Japanese court.
Stars and Stripes reporter Vince Little contributed to this report.