Ex-US Marine gets life sentence for rape, murder in Okinawa

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A court sentenced a former US base worker to life in prison on Friday for the April 2016 rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa.

He confessed to the rape of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro on April 28 last year, as well as the subsequent abandonment of her body, but fought the murder charge, claiming he did not intend to kill.

Judge Toshihiro Shibata upheld prosecutors' demands for life imprisonment and said there was no room for leniency, the Kyodo News service reported.

The crime by Shinzato - who uses his former Japanese wife's surname instead of Gadson, his surname - outraged residents who have resented the presence of U.S. military bases.

Crimes committed by American service members around the base at Okinawa have always been a source of tension between the two nations.

The proposal was developed after a military aircraft accident near the current base and the 1995 rape of a girl by three American servicemen, but has made little progress due to protests.

Kenneth Shinzato, 33, who had served as a marine from 2007 to 2014, was a civilian worker at the US Air Force's Kadena Air Base at the time of the crime.

Half of about 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan are on Okinawa.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government wants Japan to play a greater military role internationally and in Japan-U.S. security alliance amid escalating missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Witnesses told Japanese media that the Marine, 21-year-old Nicholas James McLean, ran a red light, and prosecutors later arrested him for drunk driving.

The US military base in the Okinawa Prefecture, which is located on a tiny island in the south of the Japanese archipelago, hosts the vast majority of US troops stationed in the country.

The U.S. military says the crime rate among its ranks in Japan is lower than among the general public.

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