Two American sailors have been jailed for the rape of a Japanese woman in a case that has led to fury over US military in Japan.
Naha District Court in Okinawa said on Friday that Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, should serve 10 years in prison for the rape of the young woman in Okinawa, from whom he also stole 7,000 yen ($75).
Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, was jailed for nine years for also raping the woman before dawn in a car park last October.
The two men admitted to the rape during a court appearance this week. Their pleas led to a nationwide night-time curfew on all US military personnel in Japan..
Browning and Dozierwalker were not stationed in Okinawa but had been drinking on the evening of the attack, and “were contemptible and violent”, Judge Hideyuki Suzuki said.
“The ruling may seem severe, but the damage to the feelings of the victim and residents is more severe,” he said in a written statement after the case, according to Kyodo News.
Misconduct involving soldiers has continued to heighten anti-US sentiment in communities with bases despite the curfew. Much of the misconduct has been reported to involve drunkenness.
John Roos, the US ambassador, has held a news conference about the case in which he said the US would co-operate with Japanese authorities “to address this terrible situation”.
“I understand the anger that many people feel with respect to this reported incident,” he said.
“I have a 25-year-old daughter myself, so this is very personal to me.”
The attack came amid already high tensions in Okinawa, where protests were held last year against the US deployment to the island of the tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.
The aircraft’s perceived poor safety record has been picked over in Japanese media.
Okinawa has more than half of the 47,000 US soldiers in Japan, and the crimes, noise and risk of accidents associated with their bases regularly cause anger in the local community.
Okinawans say other parts of Japan should take more of the burden and want the bases closed or reduced in size.
But with islands stretching out from mainland Japan to Taiwan that obscure rising China’s access to the Pacific, Okinawa is too strategically important for either the US or Japan to be able to countenance a large-scale troop reduction.