Former Marine gets life in prison for rape

The Naha District Court before Kenneth Franklin Shinzato was sentenced to life imprisonment on Dec. 1

A USA military contractor was found guilty of raping and murdering a Japanese woman on Okinawa and sentenced to life imprisonment Friday.

Presiding Judge Toshihiro Shibata read out the guilty verdict and the sentence handed to Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, in the lay judge trial at the Naha District Court.

The American said that he did not mean to kill her by hitting her on the head, but later stabbed her and disposed of her body in the woods when she died.

The incident prompted deep outrage among locals and renewed calls for U.S. bases to be removed entirely.

Shinzato in November denied intending to kill the woman, identified as Rina Shimabukuro, but confessed that he had sexually assaulted her.

Crimes committed by American service members around the base at Okinawa have always been a source of tension between the two nations.




Okinawa is home to the largest Marine base outside the U.S. Shinzato worked at Kadena Base, where more than 20,000 U.S. service members and their families, as well as Japanese civilians live and work.

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe protested to then-President Barack Obama after Shimabukuro's murder.

Witnesses told Japanese media that the Marine, 21-year-old Nicholas James McLean, ran a red light, and prosecutors later arrested him for drunk driving.

The proposal was developed after a military aircraft accident near the current base and the 1995 rape of a girl by three American servicemen, but has made little progress due to protests.

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. The U.S. military responded by imposing a drinking ban for personnel in Japan on or off base.

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