NAHA, Japan — A U.S. airman denied raping an Okinawan woman as a closely watched trial began here Tuesday, and one of his lawyers expressed concern the case had been caught up in a whirlwind of politics.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland, 24, denied the prosecution’s charges that he grabbed the 20-year-old woman from behind, forced her onto the hood of a car in a parking lot outside a bar and raped her.
"It was consensual. I didn’t rape her," Woodland told the Naha District Court. "There was no assault or violence or any other thing involved in this, either."
Woodland was brought into the court by four security guards. He was dressed in a beige suit, a tie and wore plastic slippers issued by the police. If convicted, he faces a minimum of two years in prison.
His case has renewed concerns over the conduct of the U.S. troops on this small island on Japan’s southern fringe. Naha is Okinawa’s prefectural (state) capital.
Crime and pollution linked to the U.S. military have long been sensitive issues for Okinawa. Three U.S. servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl on Okinawa in 1995, sparking huge protests.
Woodland’s arrest created further tensions.
Woodland was stationed at Kadena Air Base, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. Officials at Kadena refuse to release his hometown.
The next session of the trial was to be held Oct. 9, and the alleged victim, who was not in court Tuesday, was to testify.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Feb. 12.
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