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2 US sailors sentenced to prison for rape of woman in Okinawa, Japan

A Japanese court on Friday sentenced two U.S. sailors to up to 10 years in prison for raping a woman in Okinawa last year, the U.S. government's Voice of America news service reported.

A district court judge in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, sentenced Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, to 10 years in prison for gang rape and robbery. Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, received a sentence of nine years for gang rape, VOA and several Asian newspapers reported.

Both men pleaded guilty last week.

Authorities in Japan said the two sailors followed a 27-year-old woman to her apartment complex, then raped and robbed her in the parking lot about 4 a.m. on Oct. 16. Police said a third sailor witnessed the assault and was taken into custody but eventually released to the Navy.

The sailors, who were on overnight leave when the attack occurred, were crew members on a U.S. Navy cargo plane that was in Okinawa only for a couple of days to carry out a delivery, military officials said.

The incident infuriated many in Japan, including Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, and raised anti-American sentiment, particularly toward servicemen. About 40,000 U.S. forces are deployed in Japan, nearly half of them in Okinawa.

In January, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged the the difficulty for Okinawa of hosting U.S. forces.

"I recognize ... a heavy burden is imposed on the people of Okinawa regarding the issue of the bases of the U.S. Forces in Japan," Abe said.

After the rape, military officials imposed a curfew on personnel in Okinawa, but that has done little to ease tensions.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos called it a "terrible situation" and scrambled to meet with officials to alleviate their concerns.

In an Oct. 19 news conference in Tokyo, Roos got personal. "I would like to reiterate this message to the Okinawan people and to the people of Japan as a whole: I understand the anger that many people feel with respect to this reported incident.

"I have a 25-year-old daughter myself, so this is very personal to me," he said. "We will put forward every effort to make sure that incidents like this do not happen."

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