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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Japanese police finally took the suspect into custody a week after the alleged rape"
 real 28k

Friday, 6 July, 2001, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Okinawa rape suspect under arrest
Van believed to be carrying Timothy Woodland Friday evening
Woodland was delivered to Oinawa police station on Friday
Japanese police have arrested a US serviceman suspected of raping a woman on the island of Okinawa.

Earlier, the US authorities agreed to hand the man over, bringing to an end a week-long diplomatic row which threatened to damage US-Japanese relations.

We have satisfied ourselves that our US service member will receive fair and humane treatment

US ambassador Howard Baker
A police spokesman said Timothy Woodland, 24, was arrested immediately after the transfer into their custody

He is only the second American to have been handed over to Japan without being charged.

The decision was taken at a high level in Washington and followed strong lobbying from Tokyo.

Japanese protester kicks the fence at Kadena Air Base
The incident has generated a lot of anger against the US military
The new US ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, said they were now satisfied the air force sergeant would be treated fairly.

Under an agreement covering its military personnel in Japan, the US is not obliged to hand over anyone until charges have been laid.

Legal system on trial

Mr Baker said arrangements for the physical handover had yet to be finalised.

Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said after meeting Mr Baker: "We are obligated to show the rest of the world that Japan has a good legal system that is fully capable of handling the case."

Japanese FM Makiko Tanaka
Makiko Tanaka: Tough negotiations before agreement
The BBC correspondent in Tokyo, Charles Scanlon, says the handling of such incidents has long been a source of tension between the US military and the Japanese authorities.

He says the Americans worry that the rights of military personnel could be violated.

Japanese courts have a conviction rate of more than 95% and suspects are often subject to gruelling interrogation.

In the present case, Washington is reported to have made various demands relating to Sergeant Woodland's legal defence and his translator.

Allegations denied

Police in Okinawa questioned Timothy Woodland for an eighth consecutive day on Friday before allowing him to return to Kadena Air Base.

A police spokesman said Mr Woodland had undergone a lie-detector test before the arrest warrant was issued on Monday. He did not reveal the result of the test.

The alleged rape took place before dawn last Friday in the car park of American Village, a shopping and amusement arcade outside the sprawling Kadena base, about 18km (11 miles) north of Naha, Okinawa's capital city.

The woman, in her 20s, told investigators she had been raped by a black foreigner.

Mr Woodland has denied the alleged rape. He has been quoted as saying the incident involved consensual sex.

Local anger

The police say they have fingerprint evidence linking him to the crime, as well as accounts from witnesses, including some of the suspect's companions.

Car park
The alleged rape took place in this car park last Friday
The incident has already triggered renewed demands, and demonstrations, for a reduction in the huge bases that cover 20% of Okinawa's land.

And the delay in handing over Mr Woodland has further fanned local resentment against the US military.

The Japanese Government had also shown signs of losing patience with American demands that they change their procedures.

"Crimes committed in Japan should be tried according to Japanese law," said Defence Agency chief Gen Nakatani.

"Privileges should not be applied in this case just because the suspect is a US serviceman."

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See also:

05 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan pressures US over rape suspect
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Temperatures rise in Okinawa rape case
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
06 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: No easy solution
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