Nation/World

Japan Takes Custody Of U.S. Soldiers

Three U.S. servicemen who allegedly raped an Okinawa schoolgirl in a case that has outraged Japan were formally transferred to the custody of Japanese authorities Friday. The move puts a lid on one of the most controversial issues in the case: a bilateral agreement that gives U.S. military suspects special rights to remain in American custody until indictment.

The provision has been widely attacked here for obstructing police investigations and creating the risk that suspects will destroy evidence or flee the country, as occurred in another rape case two years ago.

Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, and Pfc. Kendrick M. Ledet, 20, both of Georgia, and Navy seaman Marcus D. Gill, 22, of Texas, had been charged earlier in the day with forcing the 12-year-old student into a van and beating and raping her.

The backlash over the incident continued to spread. The governor of the island where the rape allegedly occurred said Friday that he would refuse to sign lease agreements for U.S. military facilities.



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