U.S. soldier gets 32 months in prison for raping Okinawan girl

The Naha District Court in Okinawa on March 28 sentenced a U.S. Air Force sergeant to 32 months in prison for raping an Okinawan woman in June 2001.

Timothy Woodland of the U.S. Kadena Air Base was brought to trial for raping a woman last June in a parking lot in Okinawa's Chatan Town. In the court, he claimed that he had the consent of the woman. But the judge stated clearly, "The act of the defendant is nothing but assault. The victim received great physical and emotional damage."

Kuwae Teruko, a leader of a group working on Okinawan women's rights said, "The defendant deserves the sentence. Crimes like this can happen anywhere in Okinawa, and we Okinawan women have to live in fear and trembling. We must get rid of the U.S. bases as soon as possible."

The number of U.S. soldiers' crimes in Okinawa has been increasing for 3 years in a row. Last year, 72 U.S. soldiers and other military personnel were arrested in Okinawa for committing crimes.

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly called on the central government to revise the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which allows the U.S. to refuse to hand over U.S. service members suspected of crimes. But past foreign ministers have repeatedly stated that it is impossible to revise the SOFA.

Akahata of March 29 said that the government's subservient attitude to the United States has encouraged U.S. soldiers to commit crimes in Japan. (end)