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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 08:45 GMT
US airman jailed for Okinawa rape
Anti-US protest in Japan
There have been a number of protests against US bases
A member of the US Air Force in Japan has been jailed for 32 months after being found guilty of raping a woman in Okinawa.

Car park near Kadena airbase - scene of the alleged rape
The alleged rape took place in this car park
The Naha District Court ruled that Staff Sergeant Timothy Woodland, 25, raped the 24-year-old Japanese woman in a car park at a shopping complex near the Kadena air base.

Woodland had admitted having sex with the woman, but said it had been consensual.

The case aroused controversy because the US military took four days to hand Woodland over to the Japanese police, arguing that it needed guarantees he would be given fair treatment.

There are 50,000 US troops based in Japan, half of those in Okinawa.

Jail term

The jail term was slightly shorter than the three years which prosecutors had sought.

Lawyers said three years for rape was the norm in Japanese courts, adding that under Japanese criminal law, two years in prison is the minimum for rape, and that it is rare for the sentences to be over five years.

Woodland initially stood motionless as the sentence was read out, but then asked to sit down, after appearing to feel faint.

Woodland arriving for a court hearing
The case has aroused considerable interest
The trial, which began last September, heard the alleged rape victim say she was too scared to cry for help at the time of the incident.

She said she had given no sign she would consent to sex, and described such suggestions as "outrageous".

The incident was the latest in a series which provoked local resentment of the US military presence on the southern Japanese island.

In 1995 three servicemen raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl, leading to massive protests.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"There is resentment on the American side too"
See also:

28 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa welcomes rape verdict
22 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Prosecution question Okinawa 'rape victim'
11 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa suspect denies rape
25 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa 'rape victim' attacks media
19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
US rape suspect charged in Japan
07 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan detains US rape suspect
02 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Tense atmosphere in Okinawa
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