Okinawa rape and murder: USA military base worker Shinzato jailed in Japan

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato

A USA military contractor was found guilty of raping and murdering a Japanese woman on Okinawa and sentenced to life imprisonment Friday.

The case has intensified longstanding local opposition to the American military presence on the strategic island, which reluctantly hosts almost 75 per cent of land allotted for United States bases in Japan even though it accounts for just a fraction of the country's total area.

Shinzato, a former Marine from 2007 to 2014, was on the base working as a civilian contractor when he allegedly raped and murdered Rina Shimabukuro and abandoned her body in a village.

Her body was found only on May 19 previous year.

At the time of the crime, Shinzato was a civilian hired to do Internet-related work at the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture.

He admitted to charges of rape resulting in death and abandoning her body, but denied he had meant to murder her.

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Presiding Judge Toshihiro Shibata read out the guilty verdict and the sentence handed to Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, in the lay judge trial at the Naha District Court.

"There should be no more incidents or accidents by the USA military".

Okinawa hosts around 50,000 US nationals, including 30,000 military personnel and civilians employed at the bases. The plan developed after a military aircraft accident near the current base and the 1995 rape of a girl by three American servicemen enraged Okinawans, but has since made little progress due to protests. Opponents want the air station completely removed from the island.

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe protested to then-President Barack Obama after Shimabukuro's murder.

The southern Japanese island of Okinawa hosts about 25,000 U.S. troops.

There has been a strong USA military presence in Japan since World War II, BBC said, and their presence has been met with increasing resentment from community members.

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