U.S. Sailor Sought Over Taxi Murder / Okinawans Rally Against American Military

 jprobe

The 22-year-old sailor, who had been stationed at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, was taken into custody in Tokyo by U.S. military authorities on Saturday.

The sailor’s credit card was found in a taxi belonging to a 61-year-old Masaaki Takahashi, who was found stabbed to death in his vehicle on Wednesday night.

Yokosuka Municipal Government’s Base Task Force said it received a message from the U.S. military at about 4 a.m. Saturday to say the sailor wanted in connection with Takahashi’s death had been taken into custody. U.S. military officials are currently questioning the sailor.

The sailor had been a crewmember on the AEGIS destroyer USS Cowpens, which left Yokosuka on March 17. The sailor, however, had been missing for at least some weeks before the ship left port and was being sought by U.S. military police for being absent without leave (AWOL).

[…]

If that happens, the Japanese police will probably then seek custody of the sailor in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry under the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement.

Takahashi was found dead in the driver’s seat of his taxi with a 20-cm kitchen knife lodged deeply in his neck on a road in Yokosuka around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday. The road is in a residential area about 1 km from the main gate of Yokosuka naval base.

Takahashi was stuck so deeply with the knife that it hit one of his lungs, the police said, noting that they suspect his last passenger, who was picked up near JR Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, stabbed him and fled after a dispute over paying the ¥17,000 fare on the meter.

The police found about ¥62,000 in cash in a bag left in the driver’s seat and tens of thousands of yen that had been stashed in one of Takahashi’s pockets.

In a related story, a U.S. Marine NCO was arrested on the 22nd for assaulting several Okinawa police officers during an altercation with his estranged wife. A day later, Okinawan groups went ahead with a previously-scheduled rally against the U.S. military presence in their prefecture:

The demonstration was sparked by recent reports of U.S. troop-related crime, including the arrest of a Marine for allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old Okinawan girl in February. The Marine was later released from Japanese custody and no charges were filed.

“The voice of Okinawa is angry,” said protest organizer Tetsuei Tamayose. “We need a fundamental change.”

Banners demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Okinawa ringed the makeshift stage of the protest, held outside a baseball stadium.

Organizers had hoped that the protest would draw about 10,000 participants, but it rained that day and only 6,000 people showed up.

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