Two US Marines have been ordered to pay 26.42 million yen ($239,000) compensation to the family of a taxi driver whom the pair brutally attacked on the Japanese island of Okinawa a decade ago.
Thursday’s Naha District Court ruling – made in the absence of the two Marines – comes after the family of the now-deceased Munekazu Ura, sought justice, demanding to be adequately compensated for the barbaric attack.
According to the complaint, the incident took place in Okinawa City on January 7, 2008. Ura, who was driving a cab, picked up Joseph Wayne Riddle and Reginald Crapps, stationed at US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in the city of Ginowan.
Riddle, a 20-year-old corporal at the time, and Crapps, who was then 19, reportedly smashed a liquor bottled on the man’s head. The two Marines then fled the scene without paying the $26 fare, leaving the 59-year-old driver bleeding from his wound. The pair were later apprehended, confessed their crimes and were sentenced to several years in prison on assault and robbery charges.
The assault resulted in Ura’s post-traumatic stress disorder, which made him quit his job, the Kyodo News reported. He passed away four years later of cancer. The compensation is expected to be paid by the US government, as stipulated in the pre-existing Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, Kyodo News said. According to this deal, the US government is responsible for covering costs of all the damages sustained, whether their military staff were off duty or simply unable to pay the compensation themselves.
According to Kyodo News, Ura and then his family members had made five compensation requests to the US authorities between 2009 and 2014, asking to be paid 22.5 million yen in damages. They heard back from them in November 2017, when the US side offered to settle the matter outside court by paying the family 1.46 million yen. The offer was rejected by Ura’s family.
The incident is one of a string of crimes committed by US troops stationed on the strategic island of Okinawa, which hosts about 50,000 of them. The islanders have been locked in a years-long debate with the state government over the merits and drawbacks of the US military presence on the island.
Many Okinawans harbor resentment towards US troops over sexual assaults against Japanese women, some deadly incidents and accidents involving military equipment which, over the years, sparked public outrage and triggered large-scale protests condemning U. military’s disregard for the Japanese.
Staunchly opposing the state government’s plan of strengthening ties with its key ally, Okinawa Prefecture Governor Takeshi Onaga had repeatedly denounced the island’s militarization. Recent protests saw the islanders slam the planned relocation of the Futenma military base from the densely-populated Ginowan to the Henoko Bay area. They argued that a US military presence would bring crime, pollution and more accidents.
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