- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2001

OKINAWA CITY, Japan — U.S. authorities handed over an American serviceman accused of rape to Japanese police yesterday, resolving a standoff that strained relations and fanned resentment of the U.S. military in Okinawa.
Okinawa police took Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland into custody at Kadena Air Base, where the suspect has been stationed, and drove him to the police station, said base spokeswoman Lt. Col. Seavy Shapiro.
There, Sgt. Woodland was formally placed under arrest, said Chief Detective Isamu Inamine.
The handover came after U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker announced in Tokyo that Washington had given the go-ahead for the transfer, and after a joint U.S.-Japan commission met to complete the arrangements.
Mr. Baker spoke late yesterday afternoon after talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka. He said the decision had been made "after careful consideration of the facts."
Sgt. Woodland, 24, is suspected in the rape of a local woman in her 20s last week in a popular tourist area on the southern island.
Sgt. Woodland has denied the charge, and the U.S. government had refused to hand him over to Japanese custody until it received assurances that his rights would be protected. The American demands reportedly have to do with Sgt. Woodland's legal defense and his access to a translator.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he was pleased with the handover, but also called for steps to increase discipline among U.S. troops stationed in Japan.
"I'd like more efforts taken by the United States in overseeing U.S. servicemen," Mr. Koizumi said.
Miss Tanaka told reporters after her meeting with Mr. Baker that the agreement would dispel any doubts about the fairness of the Japanese criminal justice system.
"We are also obligated to show the rest of the world that Japan has a good legal system that is fully capable of handling the case," she said.
Japanese police typically question suspects, without the presence of an attorney, in sleepless marathon sessions that end only when they sign a written confession.
Police spokesman Akira Namihira said authorities gave Sgt. Woodland a lie detector test before his arrest warrant was issued Monday. He would not reveal the results.
The Japanese had appeared to be losing patience with American demands that they change their procedures, including placing a limit on the amount of time Sgt. Woodland could be questioned each day. It is not known whether the Japanese agreed.
Washington's hesitation to give approval for Sgt. Woodland's handover had generated anger in Okinawa, and renewed criticism of the special legal status granted to the 26,000 troops stationed here.
Sgt. Woodland is only the second American serviceman turned over to Japanese authorities before the filing of actual charges, and the first on Okinawa. He had been held in U.S. military custody after the June 29 attack.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide