The United States has rejected a Philippine government request to hand over four U.S. Marines charged with rape, saying they will remain in U.S. custody until all judicial proceedings are complete.

U.S. officials sent a diplomatic note to the Philippine government informing them of the decision Monday.

The Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries allows the U.S. to maintain custody of the Marines until the trial is concluded. The Marines have been held at the U.S. Embassy in Manila since the rape charges were made.

The soldiers have denied rape was involved in the incident, which allegedly took place November 1 in a van at Subic Bay free port, a former U.S. naval base northwest of Manila. The Americans had been at Subic Bay for a military exercise with Philippine troops.

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