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Japan Christian activists protest after US soldier’s rape charge


Christian-led women’s groups in Japan have joined protests against an alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a US Marine that was followed by a second such allegation against another US serviceman on the main island of Okinawa in the southwestern islands of Japan.

"We the people and women of Okinawa Prefecture have been infuriated by the vicious incident again," said the Okinawa Women Acting Against Military Violence, which is co-led by Suzuyo Takazato, a member of the United Church of Christ in Japan.

The demand was contained in a protest petition that has been sent to US President George W. Bush to call for the "withdrawal of all US military forces and bases from Okinawa to eliminate violence". The petition says, "The military is an organization of systematic violence that cannot secure true safety in either communities or the State."

In the first incident the 38-year-old suspect, Tyrone Luther Hadnott, was arrested on 11 February on suspicion of raping the girl in his car in Chatan city in the central part of the Okinawa main island.

On 21 February Japanese media reported that the US military was investigating another allegation that a member of the US armed forces raped a 21-year-old Filipino woman on the main island of Okinawa.

The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) of Japan had on 12 February released a letter of protest against the first alleged rape incident to the US president, the US ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and his defence minister, Shigeru Ishiba.

"We are sad about the deep physical and mental scars and pains of the girl junior high school student and numerous other girls and women who have suffered [from violence by US military personnel in Okinawa]," the letter said. "We demand that both the US and Japanese governments withdraw all US military bases in Okinawa and the rest of Japan as soon as possible."

The Japanese prime minister has said he will raise the issue of US military behaviour with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a visit she is scheduled to make to Tokyo next week. And US assistant secretary of state, Christopher Hill, who is responsible for Asian matters, has met senior Japanese diplomats to express "great regret" over the suspected schoolgirl rape.

Okinawa became a battlefield between US and Japan in 1945 during the Second World War. It was then occupied by the United States until 1972, when it was returned to Japan, which had annexed the islands in 1879. About 75 percent of US military bases in Japan are now concentrated in Okinawa.

Ecumenical News International