08:07 GMT17 April 2021
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    A former US military base worker was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Japanese court Friday for the rape and murder of a woman in Okinawa. The defendant pleaded guilty.

    A former US military base worker was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Japanese court Friday for the rape and murder of a woman in Okinawa. The defendant pleaded guilty.

    Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 33-year-old former Marine, who worked as a civilian contractor at the US base in Okinawa, was found guilty of raping and murdering of a 20-year-old local woman last April and convicted to life in prison, the NHK broadcaster reported. Shinzato reportedly confessed at the Naha District Court that he had attacked and raped the victim, yet he denied having any intent to kill her. 

    READ MORE: US Troops Implicated in at Least Half Dozen Incidents in Okinawa Since 2016

    According to the reports, Shinzato was initially charged with disposing the victim’s body: he hit the woman over the head with a stick and then stabbed her in the neck multiple times. The body was found in the woods three weeks later.

    Last year the case stirred up tensions on the island, where local residents took to the streets to protest the heavy US military presence in Okinawa, since about 25,000 American troops are stationed on the island. At the same time, people expressed their concerns over the increasing crime rate linked to that. The June 2016 anti-US demonstrations were said to be one of the biggest over the last couple decades, with over 50,000 people present.

    As local anger mounts over the US base on the island, Washington has promised to reduce the burden of the military footprint in Okinawa. In a bid to quell local residents and reassure them that such incidents will never happen again, the US military stated that the crime rate among base workers in Okinawa were lower than that of the local population. Yet, Okinawans said they were “discriminated by the Japanese government and, by extension, the United States."

    Previously, Okinawa also protested the relocation of the US marine corps Futenma airbase to a less populated area of the island. The plan to move the base was triggered after a military aircraft accident in the 1990s and the rape of a 12-year-old girl committed by three US servicemen. However, many local residents are still concerned with the pollution on the island, new crimes and possible aircraft incidents and demand that the Futenma base be fully removed from Okinawa.


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