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US Airman's Rape Trial to Start Tuesday in Okinawa - 2001-09-10

The trial of a U.S. airman accused of raping a Japanese woman is set to open Tuesday in Okinawa, Japan. He is expected to plead not guilty.

U.S. Air Force Sergeant Timothy Woodland is scheduled to appear Tuesday at a hearing to be held in the district court in Naha, the capital of Okinawa in southern Japan.

He is accused of raping a Japanese woman in the early hours of June 29, in a shopping center parking lot near the U.S. Kadena Air Base, where he is stationed.

The suspect has denied the charges and is expected to plead not guilty. He says the woman, who is in her twenties, agreed to have sex with him. Legal sources say a ruling could take about six to seven months. He faces a minimum of two years in prison if convicted.

The alleged rape re-ignited anger towards the 47,000 U.S. troops based in Japan, especially in Okinawa, which hosts about half of them. American servicemen based on the island have committed a series of crimes in which local women have been victimized.

When Mr. Woodland was initially accused of the rape, it took Washington several days to transfer him to Japanese custody. That outraged many Japanese, who took it as an affront because the United States was questioning the fairness of their legal system.

Some officials called for a revision of the agreement that governs the conduct of the U.S. military in Japan.