U.S. turns sailor over to Japan

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American arrested on charges over killing of woman

TOKYO, Japan–A U.S. sailor was arrested Saturday on robbery-murder charges in the killing of a Japanese woman, a Japanese police official said.

The 21-year-old sailor was arrested after he was transferred to police from the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo, a police official said on condition of anonymity, citing police branch policy.

The U.S. military previously had agreed to hand over the sailor, who police said admitted during questioning that he killed 56-year-old Yoshie Sato. Sato was found beaten and unconscious in Yokosuka on Tuesday, and later died of internal bleeding.

The arrest warrant on robbery-murder charges was obtained by the Kanagawa Prefectural office, according to a Kanagawa police official who spoke on conduction of anonymity according to police protocol.

The suspect was being held at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo, according to the U.S. Naval Forces Japan…

     

The Kyodo News agency earlier Saturday reported that the Japanese government planned to ask the U.S. to transfer custody of the suspect to the police. Hiroyoshi Ichikawa, another Kanagawa police official, said he could not confirm the report.

If the U.S. agrees to the transfer, police are expected to arrest the serviceman as early as Saturday, it said. Under a U.S.-Japan agreement, the Navy would have to hand over the sailor if Japanese authorities requested it.

The Navy said it was cooperating with Japanese police, and had imposed a temporary curfew requiring Navy personnel to be back on base by midnight until Monday.

The case risks further inflaming local opposition to plans to build an American military airstrip in the southern island of Okinawa, and base a U.S. nuclear-powered warship at Yokosuka for the first time.

Reflecting the sensitivity of the case, the U.S. Embassy issued a statement Friday expressing regret for the crime.

“The U.S. military and the American people are deeply shocked and saddened by this event,” U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer said in a written statement.

In 1995, an uproar over the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa triggered massive protests and led to the relocation of an air base to a less densely populated part of the prefecture.

The rape case also resulted in an agreement with the U.S. military that it would hand over American suspects in serious crimes to Japanese authorities for pre-indictment investigation.

About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a joint security pact, but Tokyo and Washington agreed in October to move 7,000 Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam, and shift within Japan some of the remaining troops.

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