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Japan protesters call for tighter controls on US troops after latest rape allegations

[JURIST] An estimated 6,000 protesters rallied on the island of Okinawa, Japan, Sunday calling for tighter controls on US military personnel in Japan [USFJ website] in the aftermath of the alleged rape [BBC report] of a local 14-year-old girl by a US Marine in February. The rally's executive committee authored a resolution calling for a drastic revision of the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [PDF text], signed in 1960 to govern US forces stationed in the county, in order to give Japanese authorities greater jurisdiction over US soldiers. Organizers plan to lobby Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda [official website; BBC profile] next month to change the agreement, though both the Japanese and US governments have expressed reluctance to do so. Japan has urged the US [JURIST report] to take measures to prevent future incidents, saying failure to do so would weaken the countries' alliance. The soldier accused of rape, 38-year-old Tyrone Hadnott, was arrested by Japanese police in February but has been returned to US custody for further investigation following the girl's decision to drop charges against him.

The US-Japan SOFA was last revised in 1995 [MOFA materials] following a similar incident in which three US servicemen were convicted of raping a 12-year-old Okinawan girl [CNN report]. Communities surrounding US bases in Japan have long complained [advocacy backgrounder] of crimes committed by soldiers stationed there. As a result of the 1995 agreement, the base on Okinawa is scheduled to be moved to a less populated area of the island; after the latest incident, the US military has taken a no-tolerance stance on sexual-assaults [Guardian report], including implementation of an indefinite 24-hour curfew on troops stationed there. Reuters has more. Kyodo News has local coverage.

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