A courtroom sketch shows Christopher Browning, right, and Skyler Dozierwalker… (Koichi Tashiro / Kyodo News )
Two American sailors will be imprisoned for the rape and robbery of a young woman in Okinawa, a crime that has renewed opposition to the heavy U.S. military presence on the Japanese island.
The Naha court on Friday sentenced 24-year-old Christopher Browning to 10 years and 23-year-old Skyler Dozierwalker to nine years for the October assault on a woman who was walking home from work early in the morning, according to Japanese news reports. The attack was captured on security cameras.
The two men pleaded guilty to rape this week. At the sentencing, presiding judge Hideyuki Suzuki said the prison terms fit the “contemptible and violent” assault, the Associated Press reported.
The crime was the latest violent incident to ramp up tension over the presence of thousands of U.S. troops on Okinawa, which hosts most of the American military bases in Japan.
Noise, disruptions and crimes committed by U.S. military personnel have fueled frustration. The 1995 rape of an Okinawan girl set off massive protests, spurring promises that the U.S. would pare back its military presence on the island. More recently, Okinawans have rallied against the use of Osprey aircraft, alleging that the planes are dangerous after crashes in Morocco and Florida.
The U.S. and Japan had long planned to move thousands of Marines off Okinawa but angered many Okinawans by originally hitching that agreement to the relocation of the Futenma military base elsewhere on the island. Okinawan protesters have pushed to get the base moved elsewhere in Japan or abroad.
Last year, the U.S. and Japan said they would transfer the troops before the question of Futenma was settled. Since then, new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that he will continue to push plans for the base to be moved elsewhere on Okinawa.
“Okinawa has decided not to resign itself to being treated as an item to be ‘pawned’ to the United States to curry favor with it,” the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper wrote in a blistering editorial last month, according to a translation by the nonprofit Worldmeets.us. “Should the will of the people of Okinawa be trampled on?”
The U.S. imposed curfews on its military personnel throughout Japan after the October attack. Drinking was also curbed after a string of later incidents, including a drunk serviceman punching a Japanese teenager, Stars and Stripes reported. Okinawan officials welcomed the curfew, but said the number of troops on the island still must be cut back to halt such crimes.
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