Ex-US marine jailed for life for rape, murder of Okinawan

02 December, 2017, 00:56 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • The Naha District Court before Kenneth Franklin Shinzato was sentenced to life imprisonment on Dec. 1

A court sentenced a former USA base worker to life in prison on Friday for the April 2016 rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa.

The 33-year-old former U.S. Marine stood accused of raping Rina Shimabukuro, hitting her in the head with a club and fatally stabbing her before abandoning her body in April last year.

Prosecutors said Shinzato "stabbed the victim in the neck with a knife three or four times and struck her with a bar on the back of her head between five and 10 times", adding that this meant "he had intent to kill the victim".

Judge Toshihiro Shibata upheld prosecutors' demands for life imprisonment and said there was no room for leniency, the Kyodo News service reported.

In recent weeks those who want the USA base to leave Okinawa have been inflamed again by the death of a truck driver killed when an American Marine crashed into him.

The killing, which drew the attention of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, overshadowed Barack Obama's trip to the country past year, during which he visited Hiroshima.

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These crimes, as well as safety concerns after a series of aircraft emergency landings and crashes, have intensified opposition to USA military presence on Okinawa, which hosts nearly 75 per cent of the land allotted for United States bases in Japan and where about 26,000 U.S. personnel are stationed.

Shinzato, born Kenneth Gadson but often referred to by his wife's name, was a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan before becoming a civilian contractor for the massive American military base there.

A spate of crimes committed by USA servicemen against local citizens has worsened the tension.

Okinawa is home to about half the 50,000 American troops based in Japan.

BBC noted that in 1995, a 12-year-old girl was raped by three USA service personnel.

Last month, USA marine Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was arrested after his truck collided with a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira. The U.S. military responded by imposing a drinking ban for personnel in Japan on or off base.

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