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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Okinawa
"A further delay from America could damage relations between these two allies"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Temperatures rise in Okinawa rape case
Okinawa students protest outside Kadena US Air Force base
Students have mounted several days of protests
Japanese politicians have turned up the diplomatic heat over the failure of the US to hand over a suspect in a rape investigation on the island of Okinawa.

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka warned of "a lot of trouble" if the handover was not done promptly.

It is unforgivable that the handover has not taken place

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine
Washington has been considering the Japanese request since an arrest warrant was issued on Monday for Timothy Woodland, a US air force staff sergeant who is accused of raping a 20-year-old local woman.

He denies the allegation and underwent a sixth consecutive day of police questioning on Wednesday.

Timothy Woodland driven to Okinawa police headquarters
Timothy Woodland faced more police questions on Wednesday
The US is not obliged to hand over any personnel until formal charges have been brought. But since the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl by three US servicemen in 1995 they have promised to give requests "sympathetic consideration".

Only one America has been handed over before, in 1996, when a suspect was arrested and later convicted of attempted murder near Nagasaki.

'Deplorable' delay

Okinawa's Governor, Keiichi Inamine, called the situation "extremely deplorable" and warned that antipathy to the US bases on the island was growing.

American Village
The incident took place in the American Village shopping centre car park
"I strongly demand... that the suspect be handed over swiftly," he said.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Japan had not expected such a delay.

"If it takes much longer we may have to ask for an explanation," he said.

US President George W Bush on Tuesday expressed his "sincere regret" over the incident and the American marine commander on Okinawa, Earl Hailston, has apologised to the authorities on the island.

Car park attack

The woman, who is in her 20s, said she was raped early last Friday morning in a car park in the town of Chatan, near a US military base.

The suspect has denied the charges, but the police say they have fingerprint evidence linking him to the crime.

They also have accounts from witnesses, including some of the suspect's companions.

The sergeant was earlier quoted by a Japanese news agency as telling police: "I had sex with the woman, but it was consensual, and I did not assault or threaten her."

The case has renewed anger over the large American military presence on the island and the number of sexual assault cases involving US servicemen.

Students have mounted several days of protests outside the Kadena air base where Mr Woodland is based.

Chatan councillors are reported to be considering citizen's patrols to safeguard against violence from US servicemen.

Earlier the Chatan assembly approved a request to the US military for a night-time curfew and a ban on alcohol for American servicemen.

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See also:

02 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa dogs Japan-US relations
06 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: Island of resentment
30 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Tough agenda for Japan-US summit
30 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan rape report worries US
19 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa urges US troops cutback
13 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa marine sought on arson charges
06 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
E-mail provokes Okinawa fury
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