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Midnight Curfew, Other Restrictions Coming to Okinawa

This Aug. 13, 2015 photo shows an aerial view of Henoko coast of Nago city, Okinawa, southern Japan. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP)
This Aug. 13, 2015 photo shows an aerial view of Henoko coast of Nago city, Okinawa, southern Japan. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP)

A midnight curfew and other tightened liberty restrictions will take effect Friday for all service members on Okinawa, III Marine Expeditionary Force said Thursday. The new rules, which III MEF said will remain in effect through June 24, follow the arrest last week of a civilian U.S. base worker suspected in the death of a 20-year-old Okinawan woman. Others covered by the status of forces agreement – including civilian workers and families of service members – are being asked to abide by the restrictions, too. A III MEF statement said the intent of the measures is "to observe a period of unity and mourning by curtailing off-installation activities" in response to two recent criminal acts that SOFA-status personnel have been accused of committing. The restrictions include: • All ranks, including officers, must be on base by midnight. • Alcohol may not be purchased or consumed off base. • Patronizing off-base bars and clubs is prohibited. • Parties may not be held off base. • Personally owned vehicles entering installations between midnight and 5 a.m. are subject to sobriety checkpoints. • No Marine on Okinawa may stay overnight off base unless it is their residence; however, these restrictions do not apply to those on special liberty or on leave outside of Okinawa. Okinawa's previous liberty policy, in place since late 2014, allowed troops E-5 and below to stay out as late as 1 a.m., although all personnel, regardless of rank, were banned from drinking in public off base between midnight and 5 a.m. "My intention is for all SOFA status personnel to consider their roles as ambassadors to Japan and good neighbors with the people of Okinawa, as reflected in their personal conduct during the period of mourning," III MEF commander Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, who is expected to address a news conference Saturday, was quoted as saying in the statement. "Additionally, we honor and mourn the tragedies affecting the victims of two heinous crimes. These incidents do not accurately represent the behavior of the more than 50,000 SOFA status personnel living in Okinawa who lawfully, peacefully and positively engage with our Okinawan neighbors on a daily basis." Kenneth Franklin Gadson, 32, who goes by his Japanese wife's family name of Shinzato, was arrested May 19 on a charge of illegally disposing of Rina Shimabukuro's body, although other charges are possible. Gadson, a former Marine working for a military contractor at Kadena Air Base, reportedly told police he attacked Shimabukuro, who was out on her evening walk, from behind with a stick before strangling her. A protest was held Wednesday in front of Kadena's main gate to condemn the slaying and call for a smaller military footprint, revision of the SOFA and cancellation of a plan to build a new military runway at Henoko. Approximately 2,000 people attended a rally Sunday in front of the main gate of Marine Corps headquarters on Camp Foster, and a mass Okinawa-wide rally is scheduled for June 19.

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