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Ex-US base worker gets life for killing Okinawan woman

Ex-US base worker gets life for killing Okinawan woman

Kenneth Shinzato (pictured in 2016) was convicted on Friday in Okinawa.

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A USA army base worker has been jailed for life for rape and murder in Okinawa, in a case that sparked anti-US protests in Japan.

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.

These crimes, as well as safety concerns after a series of aircraft emergency landings and crashes, have intensified opposition to United States military presence on Okinawa, which hosts nearly 75 per cent of the land allotted for U.S. bases in Japan and where about 26,000 USA personnel are stationed.

He admitted raping the young woman, with jailhouse interviews obtained by Stars and Stripes saying that voices in his head told him that she was the victim he had been waiting for.

Prosecutors said he had repeatedly hit his victim on the head and stabbed her in the neck during the attack.

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

BBC noted that in 1995, a 12-year-old girl was raped by three US service personnel.

In recent weeks those who want the USA base to leave Okinawa have been inflamed again by the death of a truck driver killed when an American Marine crashed into him.

The case also sparked outrage among government officials, who raised the case during a visit by then-President Barack Obama past year for a Group of 7 summit meeting.

Last month, U.S. marine Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was arrested after his truck collided with a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira.