US base worker in Japan gets life in prison for rape and murder on Okinawa

US base worker in Japan gets life in prison for rape and murder on Okinawa

US base worker in Japan gets life in prison for rape and murder on Okinawa

Updated 1 December 2017, 20:40 AEDT

A Japanese court sentences a former US military base worker to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman on the southern island of Okinawa, public broadcaster NHK reports.

A Japanese court has sentenced a former US military base worker to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman on the southern island of Okinawa, public broadcaster NHK has reported.

Key points:

  • Shinzato given life in prison for the 2016 rape and murder of Rina Shimabukuro
  • About 50,000 US nationals work on bases on Okinawa
  • US personnel exempt from requiring visas in Japan under SOFA

The Naha District Court found Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, guilty of killing 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro in April last year, NHK said.

A court spokesman said he was unable to immediately confirm the decision.

The case sparked anger on the island, where locals have long protested the presence of US military bases that they say impose a heavy burden on Okinawa.

Okinawa hosts about 50,000 US nationals, including 30,000 military personnel and civilians employed at the bases.

In a bid to assuage locals, the United States last year agreed to limit legal protection and benefits to some US civilian contractors working for the military in Japan under a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that dates back to 1960.

SOFA exempts personnel from requiring visas while in Japan, and has been criticised because it has been used by the US military to ship people home before Japanese police can capture them.

Other incidents involving US personnel have stirred resentment among Okinawans.

On November 19, a local man was killed in road accident after his van collided with a car driven by a US Marine suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The US military responded by imposing a drinking ban for personnel in Japan on or off base.

Reuters