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Accused U.S. serviceman pleads not guilty

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- A U.S. serviceman accused of raping a Japanese woman has pleaded not guilty, telling an Okinawa court the two had engaged in consensual sex.

Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland, 24, appeared in Naha District Court Tuesday for his first trial session in a case that has reignited anti-U.S. sentiment in Okinawa, sparking Japanese calls to reduce the number of U.S. service personnel and bases on the island.

Prosecutors allege Woodland raped the woman in June in a parking lot outside a bar in a popular tourist area. He was arrested in July, four days after a warrant was issued, after military officials delayed handing him over to Japanese police.

Appearing in court, Woodland denied the charges.

CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon with the latest from the courtroom
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"I just want to say that we did have sex. It was consensual. I didn't rape her," The Associated Press quoted Woodland telling the court.

"There was no assault or violence or any other thing involved in this either," he said.

The alleged victim, in her 20s, was not in court and was scheduled to appear at the next session on October 9. Closing arguments are scheduled for February 12.

Woodland is being tried in a Japanese court because the alleged crime occurred off base.

If convicted he faces a maximum of two years in prison.

Woodland was stationed at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

Okinawa is home to more than half of around 47,000 U.S. service personnel stationed in Japan. The island is important to the U.S.-Japan security alliance because of its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean.

But calls for a review of that alliance have been renewed by the rape allegations.

The case is the latest in a number of incidents involving U.S. personnel on the island that have angered local Okinawans.

In particular, the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl by three U.S. servicemen sparked massive protests.

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