U.S. to court-martial Marines for Japan rape case

TOKYO Thu Mar 6, 2008 1:23am EST

Military aircraft are seen at the U.S. Futenma air base in Ginowan on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa February 12, 2007. The U.S. military will court- martial four Marines accused of raping a Japanese woman in the western city of Hiroshima last year, the Marine Corps said on Thursday. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Military aircraft are seen at the U.S. Futenma air base in Ginowan on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa February 12, 2007. The U.S. military will court- martial four Marines accused of raping a Japanese woman in the western city of Hiroshima last year, the Marine Corps said on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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TOKYO (Reuters) - The U.S. military will court- martial four Marines accused of raping a Japanese woman in the western city of Hiroshima last year, the Marine Corps said on Thursday.

The move follows outrage in Japan over the suspected rape of a 14-year-old girl by another U.S. Marine on the southern island of Okinawa last month.

Two of the four Marines accused of the rape in Hiroshima will face a general court-martial in late April and early May, a spokesman from the Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station said. Dates for the remaining two have yet to be scheduled.

Media had reported last October the Marines had allegedly raped the 19-year-old woman in a car at a car park after meeting her at an event hall.

Japanese prosecutors had earlier on dropped the case citing insufficient evidence to charge the four, but the U.S. military said it would press on with the investigation.

"The Marine Corps does takes seriously any and all allegations of misconduct by its Marines," the spokesman said, adding the decision to court martial the four followed Japanese and then investigations by the U.S. military.

The four were charged in December by the U.S. military with several violations including rape, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

Japan is host to about 50,000 U.S. military personnel as part of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, but friction often occurs with local communities near the bases because of concern about crime, accidents and noise.

The suspected rape of the girl in Okinawa last month revived bitter memories of the rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl on the island in 1995, which sparked huge protests against U.S. bases there and raised doubts about the bilateral security alliance.

(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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