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Japan, U.S. to make condolence payment to family of slain Okinawa woman: sources

The governments of Japan and the United States are preparing to make a condolence payment to the bereaved family of a 20-year-old woman who was raped and murdered in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Uruma in April 2016, to match the amount of damages that a former U.S. Marine was ordered to pay over the crime, multiple Japanese government sources have disclosed.


Because the former Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 34, was indirectly employed, the U.S. government had refused to pay compensation to the victim’s family under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), but agreed to make a certain condolence payment in light of the sentiment of the bereaved family and the impact of the incident on Japanese society. Japan’s Ministry of Defense will foot the difference between that amount and the amount of damages that the court ordered be paid.


Under the SOFA, if “members or employees of the United States armed forces” commit a crime and the person responsible has no means to pay compensation, the victim can request payment from the U.S. government. Under Japan’s compensation system, the Naha District Court in January this year ordered Shinzato to pay an undisclosed amount to the bereaved family. Shinzato was sentenced to life imprisonment over the crime in a district court ruling, and is in the midst of an appeal. As the defendant has no means to pay, the family sought the funds from the U.S. government under the SOFA.


Since Shinzato was a civilian employee of a private company, the U.S. government stressed that he was not an employee of the U.S. forces, and thus refused to pay compensation. However, following consultations between the Japanese and U.S. governments, the two parties agreed that they would shelve differences over their interpretations of the SOFA terms and that the U.S. would make a consolatory payment.


In spite of this development, the Japanese government remains unchanged in its view that the defendant was an employee of the U.S. forces. However, the Cabinet has decided that the Minister of Defense can authorize a consolatory payment if relief measures for a victim are not adequately provided under the SOFA and other means. Accordingly, once consultations between the Japanese and U.S. governments on the condolence payment are finalized, the Ministry of Defense will launch procedures to pay the difference between that amount and the amount the district court ordered be paid.

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