Alleged rape incident at Atsugi may grate on nagging defense issues
In the early hours of Saturday, July 21, two members of the U.S. military, assigned to the Atsugi naval air facility in Kanagawa Prefecture, reportedly became disorderly while drinking in a civilian bar. One of them, referred to as A, was a 23-year-old petty officer second class. The other was a high-ranking officer, a former pilot.
A, described as being in an extremely inebriated state, was ordered to leave the bar by the officer, who admonished him, saying, “No more drinks, you’ve had enough.”
As A was a regular at the bar and lived close by, a woman at the bar agreed to accompany him to his home.
A police source tells Shukan Bunshun (Aug 16-23) what happened next. “On the way home, he supposedly punched the woman several times in the stomach, and said words to the effect, ‘I want to have sex with you. Shut up and let me do it. If you don’t go along, I’ll kill you.’
“Then he forced her into his apartment and raped her. It was a vicious and despicable act.”
When A dozed off, the woman fled in her bare feet and at the advice of an acquaintance, reported the assault to the military police on the base. The Americans notified the Kanagawa prefectural police at Yamato, which dispatched officers the next morning to raid A’s apartment.
“When the heads at the station were requested to approve a warrant for A’s arrest, however, they were prevented from doing so, having supposedly been told that ‘Because of the problems with deployment of the Ospreys, an incident involving the U.S. military might have repercussions, and is undesirable.”
The Noda cabinet has been making strong efforts to sway public opinion into accepting the tilt-rotor aircraft at U.S. bases in Japan, despite concerns over their safety.
Under guarantee of anonymity, the victim, described as an attractive woman in her early 30s, related details of her ordeal to Shukan Bunshun.
“From about a year ago, A used to come drinking at this bar,” she is quoted as saying. “He behaved himself when sober, but once he’d had too much to drink, it was like someone had flipped a switch, and he’d become obnoxious.”
A is described as a Hispanic-American, and about 190 centimeters tall.
By the woman’s account, at about 1:30 a.m., A reacted with hostility to the officer’s reprimand and others intervened to prevent a fight. It was then that the woman was requested to see him home.
“When we got near his place, he forced me down an alley and punched me in the stomach, then pulled down his zipper and tried to shove his organ in my mouth. When I resisted, he threatened me, and then punched me in the solar plexus and dragged me into his apartment.”
His sexual assault was described as “sadistic.”
The woman fled barefoot to a nearby convenience store and summoned a taxi around 3:50 a.m.
According to a Japanese who works on the base, A may have served in Iraq before being assigned to Japan, although his age (23) would make it unlikely he saw heavy combat that might lead to PTSD.
A is reportedly currently confined to the base but not in the brig. Twenty days after the incident occurred, the police have yet to file formal charges.
An attorney on Okinawa, Norio Ikemiyagi, tells the magazine that if a similar crime had occurred on Okinawa, the police would have definitely requested an arrest warrant. “But since the suspect is now inside the base, according to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the police cannot enter without agreement from the U.S. side. In other words, unless the Japanese police nab a perpetrator red-handed, it’s difficult to build a criminal case, and there’s a possibility [this crime] will be covered up.
“In any case, it is the U.S. military that determines how the investigation will proceed.”
Shukan Bunshun requested clarification from the public relations office of U.S. Forces Japan, but had not received a response in time to meet the deadline. A spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Justice told the magazine, “We cannot comment on individual incidents, but in general, as you pointed out, intervention is not possible.”