A Japanese court has sentenced a U.S. airman to two years and eight months for raping a local woman last June on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. The case angered many in Okinawa and increased resentment against the tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed there.
A Japanese district court judge in the capital of Okinawa ruled Thursday that 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Timothy Woodland is guilty of rape.
Woodland went on trial after being charged with sexually assaulting the 24 year-old unnamed woman in the parking lot of a local shopping center last June 29th. He has been sentenced to 32 months in a Japanese prison.
During the trial, Woodland claimed he had consensual sex with the woman, but she testified that she repeatedly resisted his advances. The judge said that the victim suffered great damage and that Woodland had shown no signs of remorse.
Masao Doi is the chief of media relations for the 18th Wing Kadena air base. He says the U.S. military accepts the verdict and the sentence. "Kadena air base officials have fully cooperated with local Okinawa government agencies and the government of Japan in the pursuit of the truth and a fair trial in the case of Staff Sergeant Timothy B. Woodland. The case has now concluded and the Japanese justice system has rendered its decision. Kadena officials continue to fully cooperate with the Japanese authorities as outlined in the Status of Forces Agreement and respect their judicial decisions," Mr. Doi said.
The trial attracted intense media coverage and intensified local resentment of the 26,000 U.S. troops based in Okinawa. Residents were already angry over a string of crimes involving military personnel, including the rape of a schoolgirl by three American servicemen in 1995, which generated mass protests.
The Woodland case increased pressure on Washington to revise an agreement with Tokyo that allows U.S. authorities in Japan to hold military personnel suspected of crimes until they are indicted.
After the incident, Washington fanned local indignation by waiting for one week to hand Woodland over to Japanese officials, citing human rights concerns.
Defense lawyers say that a decision on whether to appeal the verdict will be made after consultations with Woodland.