U.S. airman facing rape charge on Okinawa to plead innocent, lawyer says
TOKYO (AP) – The U.S. Air Force sergeant charged with raping a Japanese woman on the southern island of Okinawa will plead innocent when his trial opens next month, his attorney said Monday.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland is accused of raping the 20-year-old woman in a parking lot in the central Okinawan town of Chatan last month. His trial is to convene Sept. 11 at Naha District Court.
Woodland, 24, faces at least two years in prison if convicted. His defense lawyer, Tsuyoshi Arakaki, said he would deny the charges.
Woodland insisted under questioning that he had consensual sex with the woman, Japan’s Kyodo News agency quoted Deputy Prosecutor Junichi Okumura as saying.
On Monday, the court denied Arakaki’s request that American lawyer Annette Eddie-Callagain be allowed to join the defense team, Kyodo said.
Meanwhile, a former serviceman with Japan’s military was convicted Monday in the Naha court of raping a 15-year-old in southern Okinawa, court officials said.
Hiromitsu Meguro, 34, was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Meguro, then a first lieutenant with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, was dismissed from the military in April.
Prosecutors said he raped the girl in March after threatening to throw her into the ocean from a cliff.
Okinawa, located 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo, is home to about half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. Japan’s military also stations troops there. The island is important to the U.S.-Japan security alliance because of its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean.
However, a series of crimes over the years – many of them sexual assaults committed by U.S. servicemen – have heightened tensions between U.S. troops and Okinawans and prompted calls for the withdrawal of U.S. bases.
The new U.S. ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, met with Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Monday.
Baker told Inamine he wanted to continue talks with Okinawans and to improve the way the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement governing the American military in Japan is executed, said Hideaki Yamashiro, an Okinawa government official.
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