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thedrifter
03-23-08, 10:47 AM
Okinawans protest crimes related to U.S. troops on their island


AP - Monday, March 24
By ERIC TALMADGE,Associated Press Writer AP - Monday, March 24

CHATAN, Japan - Several thousand Okinawans angry over recent reports of crimes allegedly committed by U.S. troops held a loud but peaceful protest Sunday, with many demanding the troops be withdrawn from the island altogether.

The protest was followed by a march to the gate of a nearby U.S. Marine base. No incidents or arrests were reported.

The demonstration was sparked by recent reports of U.S. troop-related crime, including the arrest of a Marine for allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old Okinawan girl in February. The Marine was later released from Japanese custody and no charges were filed.

"The voice of Okinawa is angry," said protest organizer Tetsuei Tamayose. "We need a fundamental change."

Banners demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Okinawa ringed the makeshift stage of the protest, held outside a baseball stadium.

Okinawa, a major outpost for the United States in the Pacific, is home to roughly half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout Japan.

The troops provide a major economic boost to the island, which is one of Japan's poorest regions, but problems with base-related accidents, crowding and crime are endemic.

The rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 created a huge outcry and led to plans for the redeployment of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.

The latest allegations have not sparked as much outrage, and organizers of Sunday's rally said a strong rain contributed to a relatively limited turnout, which fell short of the 10,000 people they had hoped for.

The U.S. military here, meanwhile, has reacted strongly to enforce discipline by restricting troops to bases, work sites or off-base housing and ordering a review of education guidelines to prevent sexual assault.

U.S. military authorities are still investigating February's alleged attack.

Several other incidents _ including a robbery _ were reported soon after that attack, however, and were linked to military personnel.

Other high-profile crimes have also heightened emotions.

The U.S. military has announced it will soon court martial four Marines accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in October. That case was also investigated by Japanese police, but dropped in November.

In the most recent case, a U.S. sailor sought for questioning in the killing of a Japanese taxi driver near an American navy base outside of Tokyo was taken into U.S. custody early Saturday.

The 61-year-old victim, Masaaki Takahashi, was found fatally stabbed in his cab Wednesday night in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, about a kilometer (half-mile) from the U.S. naval base.

Reports have said credit cards belonging to the detained sailor were found in the taxi.

Ellie

Zulu 36
03-23-08, 03:08 PM
Protesting is the national sport of Okinawa.