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U.S. Marine Indicted in Japan Arson

February 16, 2001

TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese prosecutors formally indicted a Marine suspected of arson attacks on Okinawa. The U.S. military surrendered him Friday.

The military’s refusal to hand over Lance Cpl. Kurt K. Billie, who was detained this week at Camp Hansen, angered Japan. The U.S. military cited an agreement that allows it to keep custody of accused soldiers until prosecutors file charges.

Billie, suspected of setting fire to a restaurant and a bar last month, was formally indicted Friday. He was sent to a jail in the Okinawan capital of Naha, an official in the prosecutor’s office said. Naha is 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.

The incident comes amid rising anger and tension between Japan and the American military.

Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston was forced to apologize following reports that he called Okinawa legislators angered by misconduct by Marines ``wimps″ and ``nuts.″

And revelations that civilians were at the helm of a Navy submarine that rammed into and sank a Japanese fishing vessel off Hawaii last week, leaving nine people missing, enraged many Japanese.

Okinawa lawmakers last month passed a resolution urging a reduction in the number of Marines on Okinawa. Okinawa is home to half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

Update hourly