Japanese court finds US airman guilty of rape


A Japanese court has convicted a US airman of raping a Japanese woman and sentenced him to 32 months in jail.

US Air Force Staff Sergeant Timothy Woodland was convicted of raping the woman in a parking lot outside a popular Okinawa nightclub on June 29th last year.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison sentence for Woodland, who was tried at the Naha District Court. Naha is Okinawa's capital city.

The airman pleaded innocent to the allegations, saying that he had consensual sex with the woman.

The incident stoked resentment in a part of Japan where tens of thousands of US troops are based and where residents are highly sensitive to military-related crimes.

The Woodland case attracted heavy media coverage and raised pressure on the Japanese government to revise an agreement letting US authorities hold military personnel suspected of crimes until they are formally charged.

US officials refused to hand Woodland to local police for four days after a warrant was issued for his arrest, saying they were concerned with the protection of his rights.

Okinawa, about 1,000 miles south west of Tokyo, is home to almost half of about 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan.