TOKYO – A Japanese court sentenced on Friday a former United States marine to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of a woman in Okinawa in southern Japan in April 2016, a crime that shocked the country and intensified resentment in Okinawa over the American military presence on the island.
The Naha District Court in southeast handed down the sentence on Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, considering his criminal responsibility was grave, given that the crime was committed with “selfish motivation, which left no room for leniency,” according to the ruling reported by Japanese news agency Kyodo.
The defendant, a member of the US Navy between 2007-2014 who was working as a civilian at the Kadena base in Okinawa at the time of the incident, had admitted to the charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning the body of victim, local woman Rina Shimabukuro, 20, but denied intent to murder.
According to the indictment, Shinzato stabbed the girl in the neck and hit her on the head with a rod so that she would not resist, killing her as a result, although the defendant said during the trial “I did not intend to cause such a result.”
The case once again triggered the public rage and intensified public resentment against excessive US military deployment stating threat to security as a reason, and owing to the crimes committed by US servicemen in the region.
The most serious of those cases occurred in 1995 when three soldiers from an Okinawa base kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old girl, prompting some 85,000 people to protest.
In the most recent case, a 60-year-old Japanese man died after a military truck driven by an allegedly drunk marine collided with his vehicle on Nov. 19.
Okinawa houses more than half of the nearly 48,000 troops that the US maintains in Japan, as well as 70 percent of military facilities in the Asian country.