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Okinawans Protest US Military Presence


Thousands of people gathered in Okinawa, Japan, Sunday to protest crimes by members of the U.S. military stationed on the island.

The protesters rallied in heavy rain in the town of Chatan, where a 14-year-old girl allegedly was raped by a U.S. serviceman in February.

Okinawa Mayor Mitsuko Tomon told the demonstrators that when the people of Okinawa complain about the behavior of U.S. service members, their "voices have been trampled" by U.S. and Japanese authorities.

Also Sunday, the U.S. military said it would cooperate with the Japanese investigation of the killing of a taxi driver found stabbed to death last week in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. A credit card belonging to a U.S. sailor accused of desertion was found in the taxi.

The United States has more than 40,000 troops stationed in Japan.

In the case of the alleged rape incident, the girl dropped criminal charges against the suspect, who was released from Japanese custody into that of U.S. military authorities.

The incident echoed a 1995 case in which three U.S. servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl on Okinawa, sparking a public outcry against the U.S. military presence on the island.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.