U.S. transfers unindicted Marine,accused of rape, to Japanese custody
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2003
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — A Marine accused of raping a 19-year-old Okinawa woman was turned over to Japanese police Wednesday even though he had yet to be indicted.
The move follows an announcement that U.S. officials will visit Japan to discuss changing the agreement regulating how Japanese courts treat U.S. military personnel.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jose W. Torres, 21, was turned over to Okinawa police after a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee.
He is accused of raping and beating a Japanese woman he met in a bar around 3 a.m. May 25 in Kin, the town outside Camp Hansen.
The woman reportedly told police she first informed gate guards Torres beat and raped her in a yard off base.
Japanese officials reassured U.S. officials Torres would receive fair and humane treatment throughout his detention, according to a press release.
The U.S.-Japan Joint Committee also agreed Wednesday that a U.S. government team would come to Japan within two weeks to negotiate changing how criminal prosecutions are handled under the status of forces agreement, or SOFA, which spells out legal rights of U.S. servicemembers in Japan.
The goal, the group said, is to wrap up negotiations within 45 days of that meeting.
Under the SOFA, a servicemember accused of a crime generally remains in U.S. custody until indicted.
But a provision gives the United States the option of handing over servicemembers accused of heinous crimes, including rape, before indictment.
The Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper reported sources close to the investigation as saying another Marine turned Torres in to military police.
The Marine introduced Torres and the woman before the two left the bar. The woman later returned to the bar and told the other Marine Torres had raped her, the newspaper reported, adding the second Marine then sought out Torres.
U.S. Forces Japan was unable to confirm the account.
But the alleged incident has come to the attention of senior officials in the State and Defense departments.
Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato previously said in a news conference in Washington, D.C., that he asked Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for Torres to be handed over before indictment.
The alleged rape sparked a protest Tuesday outside the Camp Hansen gate, where about 40 members of Okinawa Peace Activity rallied.
Protesters called for Torres to be turned over to Japanese authorities and for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Okinawa.
The Kin Town Council also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Okinawa Office and Defense Facilities Administration Bureau in Naha, according to Ryukyu Shimpo.
In the complaint, the council also called for SOFA revisions.