From: Reuters
Published April 24, 2008 11:11 PM

U.S. Marine faces court-martial over Okinawa rape

TOKYO (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine faces a court martial on charges of kidnapping and raping a 14-year-old schoolgirl on Japan's southern island of Okinawa in February, U.S. military officials said on Friday.

The case prompted thousands of Okinawan residents to rally last month to protest against crimes by U.S. troops and demand a smaller U.S. military presence on the island, host to about half the nearly 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan.

The U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a bilateral security treaty that is the pillar of Tokyo's post-war security policy, but those who live near the bases often complain about associated crime, noise and pollution.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott was arrested by police in February on suspicion of raping the girl, but Japanese prosecutors dropped the case after she withdrew her complaints, a move some in Okinawa said was to escape the public spotlight.

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Hadnott has been charged under the U.S. military justice code with rape and abusive sexual contact with a child under 16 and kidnapping through inveigling, the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa said in a statement.

"The above are merely accusations," the Marines said. "The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to a fair and impartial trial."

No date has been set for the court-martial.

Four other U.S. Marines from a base in southwest Japan also face court martial over the rape of a Japanese woman last year.

LtGen. Edward Rice, the recently arrived commander of U.S. troops in Japan, said earlier this month that he would demand high standards of behavior after the high-profile allegations against U.S. servicemen, including the rapes and murder.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg)

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