The Naha District Public Prosecutors Office on Friday indicted the American driver involved in the Jan 12 traffic fatality on charges of negligent driving resulting in death, NHK reported.
The indictment comes after the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed to review the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in a bid to allow Japanese law enforcement authorities, in certain situations, to try U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilian employees on military bases, who break Japanese laws while stationed in Japan, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told a news conference.
In the Jan 12 incident, Rufus James Ramsey III, 24, who works at a supermarket on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, was involved in a traffic collision that resulted in the death of Koki Yogi, a 19-year-old man, NHK reported.
However, he was not indicted by Okinawan police at the time because he was deemed to be on duty at the time of the incident. The U.S. imposed a five-year driving ban on him.
The incident provoked demonstrations following which there was increased pressure on the U.S. to change the current rules recognizing car accidents committed by U.S. personnel who drank alcohol at U.S. military official events as having done so while "on duty."
The current interpretation of the Status of Forces Agreement gives the United States primary jurisdiction in cases involving civilian employees on bases who cause accidents or commit crimes when on duty.
The new rules will allow for the possibility of a trial under Japanese law for civilian employees of U.S. bases, known as Army and Air Force Exchange Service employees, who have committed fatal or serious crimes as well as caused accidents when on duty.
However, the U.S. still has to waive its jurisdiction and give consent to Japanese authorities in any criminal case. The U.S. military gave its consent Friday for Ramsey to be indicted,m NHK reported.
The latest announcement is part of the government's effort to reduce the burden on Okinawa in a bid to win its support for the planned relocation of the Futenma base within the prefecture.© Japan Today