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US Airman Enters Plea in Rape Case

A U.S. airman has pleaded not guilty to charges of raping a Japanese woman on the southern island, Okinawa. U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Timothy Woodland entered a not guilty plea at the first hearing of his case, Tuesday, in the district court of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture.

Prosecutors allege Mr. Woodland raped a Japanese woman on June 29, in a parking lot outside of a bar near the American Kadena Air Force base. Mr. Woodland - who is 24 years old - admits to having sex with the woman, but says it was consensual. He says that there was no assault or violence.

The Japanese woman was not in court. She is expected to appear at the next session, October 9.

Mr. Woodland's case has caused friction between the United States and Japan because U.S. officials - concerned about his legal rights - delayed handing Mr. Woodland over to the Japanese police for several days.

A number of crimes committed by U.S. servicemen has raised tensions between the American troops stationed in the country and the Japanese public - especially in Okinawa, where about half of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan are based.