- The rape occurred in a parking lot
- Assaults by U.S. servicemen are a hot-button issue in Japan
- Many in Okinawa object to the presence of the U.S. base
A Japanese court Friday sentenced two American servicemen to prison for a rape committed last year while they were on duty at a U.S. military base
The Naha District Court handed down a sentence of 10 years to Navy Seaman Christopher Daniel Browning and nine years to Petty Officer Skyler A Dozierwalker for raping a Japanese woman after attacking her in a parking lot.
The rape occurred in October 2012.
At the time, both men were visiting from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.
After their arrests, Lt. Gen. Salvatore Angelella, commander of U.S. forces in Japan, put troops at Okinawa's Kadena Air Base on a curfew
and apologized to the victim.
The curfew restricts military personnel to the base, a personal home or hotel between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The incident has prompted a women's group in Okinawa to call for more restrictions on what U.S. military personnel can do when they are off-base.
Violent crimes, especially rapes, by U.S. troops in Japan have divided the two countries for decades.
The issue came to a peak in 1995 when a sailor and two Marines -- both American -- 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 south of Japan's main islands.
In that case, the U.S. military at first declined to turn over the suspects to Japanese authorities. But in the most recent case, the suspects were in Japanese custody almost immediately.
The alleged attack took place two months after a U.S. Marine was arrested, accused of assaulting and molesting a woman in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.
Relations between the U.S. military and Okinawans have already been stressed over the U.S. Marine Corps' deployment of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to a base on the island. Some 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 has announced that thousands of Marines will be moved to a base in Guam.