Okinawa officials demand that indicted airman apologize to community
NAHA, Okinawa — Government officials here Monday demanded a Marine lance corporal indicted last week on a rape charge make a formal apology to the community and the alleged victim.
The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly also adopted resolutions calling for the U.S. military to maintain a tight rein on servicemembers stationed on Okinawa and renewed its call for a revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
Marine officials had nothing new to say Monday concerning the case.
Lance Cpl. Jose W. Torres, 21, assigned to Camp Hansen, is in the Naha Detention Center awaiting trial on a charge of rape involving injuries in an attack on a 19-year-old woman in Kin, the village outside the base.
When Torres was arrested, a Marine spokesman said the Corps was cooperating with local authorities. In a recent visit to Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine, Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, Okinawa area coordinator and 3 Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, expressed his regrets concerning the incident.
The attack allegedly occurred at 3:15 a.m. near a bar where both Torres and the alleged victim had been drinking, according to the indictment. The woman claimed Torres struck her in the face, breaking her nose, then dragged her by the hair into an alley where he pressed her against a stairway and raped her.
The first hearing in the case is set for July 24 in Naha District Court.
Torres, assigned to 3 MEF’s Headquarters and Service Company, was handed over to Okinawa police by military authorities June 19 after the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee in Tokyo decided it was a special case that warranted the early turnover.
Under the SOFA, U.S. servicemembers in military custody who are charged by Japanese police with felonies are not handed over until they’re indicted. Exceptions are made for people charged with “heinous” crimes, such as rape.
Okinawa prosecutors say Torres has confessed to the crime.
The incident and other sexual assault cases during the past two years have resulted in ongoing talks between the United States and Japan concerning the early turnover provision and a U.S. request to allow military observers to witness the interrogation of suspects.
Under the Japanese legal system, suspects do not have the right to an attorney during questioning by police and prosecutors.
The Japanese government is being pressured by Okinawa officials to give Japanese authorities immediate jurisdiction over U.S. servicemembers charged with crimes.
This month’s SOFA talks in Washington apparently ended in a stalemate on the two issues. According to a Kyodo News report from Washington, the two sides ended a second round on the issue without coming to an agreement and no date was set for a third round. The two sides first met July 2 and 3 in Tokyo.
According to the Kyodo report, Japanese officials during the talks explained criminal procedures under Japan’s judicial system, and insisted a suspect’s human rights are fully protected. U.S. officials said they had to confer with their superiors before any further discussions, according to an unidentified Japanese official quoted in the report.
In the protest resolution regarding the Kin rape charges, passed unanimously Monday, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly stated, “This rape not only inflicted physical and mental agony to the woman, it also violated the woman’s dignity. Because of the heinous nature of the crime, which is the same as murder and arson, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to hand over the custody of a suspect of rape prior to the indictment.”
Still, the assembly said the surrender of the suspect was not soon enough. The resolution expressed regret over the two-day delay.
“Handing over the custody of a suspect remains under the discretion of U.S. government,” the resolution stated. “Such an arrangement not only seriously infringes upon sovereignty of our country but proves the inequality in the [SOFA] agreement.”
The resolution also asked for stricter controls on the behavior of U.S. servicemembers.
“Crimes involving SOFA members have increased in recent years. We cannot help but to doubt the commitment of the [U.S.] military to enforce discipline among its members.”
The resolution read in part:
“From standpoint of protecting sovereignty of our country and life, property and human rights of people of Okinawa, we hereby demand:
Apologies and a complete compensation to the victim once the suspect is found guilty;Drastic revision of SOFA;Effective measures to prevent recurrence of a similar crime by enforcing stricter discipline and education to servicemembers;Further reduction of the military presence and number of troops including Marines on Okinawa.”After the session, Toshinobu Nakazato, chairman of the assembly’s Special Committee on the U.S. Military Affairs, said it was appropriate to request an apology and compensation to the victim because the Marine already has been indicted.
“We demand the suspect, after found guilty, offer apologies to the victim,” he said.
Nakazato said an assembly delegation would present the resolution to U.S. officials on Okinawa on Wednesday. Next week the delegation will present the resolution to U.S. Forces Japan and the national government in Tokyo, he added.