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By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:11:00 02/28/2009

Filed Under: Rape, Crime, Justice & Rights, Diplomacy, Women, Military

MANILA, Philippines — A women’s party-list group on Saturday assailed a United States military court’s dismissal of a rape case filed by a young Filipino woman against an American soldier in Okinawa, Japan.

“In strongest terms, we condemn the decision of the US Court Martial in Okinawa as an act of absolution and arrogance of the US government in the pursuit of justice of Hazel and the other victims of rape and abuse by US military soldiers,” Gabriela Representative Liza Maza said in a statement.

Quoting news reports, the party-list group said Army Judge Colonel Donna Wright of the US Court Martial in Okinawa last Tuesday dismissed the case against Army Specialist Ronald Hopstock for lack of sufficient evidence.

This was the second legal setback for the victim, identified in the press as Hazel, who earlier lost a criminal case she filed with the Japanese courts in June 2008.

Maza said the government should appeal to President Obama, as the US commander in chief, to get the decision reviewed. “The evidence is clear as day,” she said.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Bayani Mangibin, spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs, for comment.

Hazel, then 21, was allegedly raped inside a hotel in Okinawa on February 18, 2008, three days after she arrived there to work as a cultural dancer. She filed a case in court, but this was dismissed for insufficient evidence. She decided to stay to pursue the case in the military court.

The non-government organization Migrante in Nagoya, Japan also condemned the dismissal of the case, calling this an “attack on the justice system.”

“This is not the way justice should be served. However, what can Hazel and the rest of her supporters in Okinawa and elsewhere expect from a military court whose players all carry the same badge?” it said in a statement.

“We ask Judge Wright: How much evidence do you need? And how many women-victims do you want to come forward to prove Hopstock’s guilt?” Migrante asked.

“Hazel is not a prostitute, nor is she a bad woman as what the accused and his likes have portrayed her in media,” it said, pointing out that she flew to Okinawa to work as an entertainer to support a twin sister who met an accident and needed medical attention.

Migrante also hit the Arroyo administration for “turning its back on Hazel and for not lifting its finger to ensure that justice is served.”

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