- Two suspects are accused of raping a Japanese woman and injuring her neck
- The case has drawn outrage from Japanese officials and Okinawa residents
- The issue of violent crimes, especially rapes, by U.S. troops in Japan has divided the nations
Japanese prosecutors have indicted two American sailors on charges that they raped a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa last month, a case that has deepened tensions between local residents and the U.S. military.
The arrest of the two suspects prompted outraged reactions from Japanese officials and resulted in the imposition of a curfew by the U.S. military on its troops in Japan.
The two suspects, both from a base in Fort Worth, Texas, were indicted by Naha District Court on Tuesday afternoon, according to a statement from the public affairs office of the U.S. Commander, Naval Forces Japan.
They were arrested last month on Okinawa, which lies south of the main Japanese islands, on allegations that they raped a woman in the early hours of October 16, leaving her with an injury to her neck. They were staying at a U.S. Air Force base on Okinawa while in transit.
According to the Navy statement, Aviation Electrician's Mate Skyler Dozierwalker faces a charge of rape by group resulting in injury, and Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Christopher Browning faces a charge of rape by group resulting in injury, as well as a charge of robbery. Both men are 23 years old.
The Okinawa prosecutors' office declined to disclose information about the indictment by telephone and didn't provide a statement.
The issue of violent crimes by U.S. troops in Japan has divided the two countries for decades. It came to a peak in 1995 when a U.S. sailor and two U.S. Marines were convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl. Tens of thousands of Okinawans took to the streets at the time demanding that the United States leave the island.
Relations between the U.S. military and the people of Okinawa have also been strained in recent months over the U.S. Marine Corps' deployment of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to a base on the island. Some Okinawa residents are concerned because the Osprey has had a reputation for crashing.
The Okinawan community has long been against the presence of the U.S. military, which recently announced that thousands of Marines will be moved to a base in Guam.
The rape charges against the two U.S. sailors come just months after a U.S. Marine was arrested over accusations he assaulted and molested a woman in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.
And the situation was compounded last week by allegations that a U.S. airman broke into a family's home on the island and assaulted a teenage boy before jumping off a third-floor balcony.
Okinawa police are investigating the incident, which appears to have taken place during the hours when the U.S. military curfew is supposed to be in effect.