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Warrant issued for detention of U.S. soldier over rape

A warrant has been issued to detain a U.S. soldier accused of raping a young Korean woman, officials said Saturday.

The district court in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, ordered the arrest of the 21-year-old Army private of the Second Infantry Division in Dongducheon accused of raping an 18-year-old at her home near his unit around 4 a.m. on Sept. 24.

The private, who was apparently drunk and armed at the time, allegedly broke into her home as the woman was watching television, raped her and then fled.

The soldier was filmed as he entered the building in a surveillance camera installed near the victim’s home and the police notified the U.S. military of its findings.

“Considering the gravity of the offense, and the fact that the suspect has been summoned for questioning, we issued a warrant for detention for the suspect as there are chances he may flee,” said Oh Yeon-soo, the judge in charge of the case, Saturday.

The case has reignited criticism of the U.S. forces here and calls by civic groups and lawmakers for the revision of the Status Of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and South Korean military. The SOFA is an agreement established between two countries to clarify the rights of foreign soldiers such as civil and criminal jurisdiction.

A civic group and a ruling party lawmaker representing the region lashed out at the U.S. military calling for proper measures to handle the case.

The Northern Gyeonggi Liberal Association held a protest last Friday, demanding that a clause in the SOFA be revised to enable Korean investigators to more effectively investigate such cases and the reimposition of a late-night curfew for U.S. soldiers, which was ended last July.

Rep. Kim Sung-soo of the Grand National Party sent a letter to the Eighth U.S. Army Commander to lodge a complaint over the case.

Under the current SOFA, U.S. soldiers suspected of serious crimes such as murder or rape cannot be turned over to South Korean authorities until they are indicted by the prosecution.

The U.S. government sent an apology last Wednesday and pledged full cooperation with South Korean police in the investigation. Observers said the U.S. has responded to the case swiftly in an effort to minimize possible political and diplomatic fallout.

In 2002, anti-American sentiment swept the nation after two school girls were run over by a U.S. armored vehicle and a U.S. military court acquitted the soldiers responsible.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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