3 Japanese ex-soldiers charged over sexual abuse

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TOKYO – Japanese prosecutors on Friday charged three former soldiers over the sexual abuse of a colleague, who is suing the government for failing to prevent the assaults, local media reported.

Ms Rina Gonoi, 23, went public about the alleged assaults in 2022, after an investigation into her claims was dropped on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Friday’s move by the prosecutors in Fukushima region, where Ms Gonoi was previously stationed, is a reversal of their initial conclusion not to prosecute.

A spokesman for the prosecutors’ office told AFP they could not confirm the decision over the phone.

“Today, the three were charged over sexual assault against me… I finally feel (my efforts) paid off because every day I was suffering,” Ms Gonoi wrote on Twitter.

“I want them to acknowledge what they did is a crime and atone for their sin.”

In February, Ms Gonoi told AFP in an interview that on a drill in 2021, three colleagues pressed her to the ground, forced apart her legs and each repeatedly pressed their crotches against her.

She reported the incident, but an internal probe concluded there was not enough evidence to proceed.

After Ms Gonoi aired her claims in a video posted on YouTube in June 2022, more than 100,000 people signed a petition and she submitted it to the defence ministry seeking an independent probe.

The defence ministry has since acknowledged the assault and apologised.

For Ms Gonoi, who had dreamed of joining Japan’s Self-Defence Forces from childhood, the decision to publicly call out the inaction surrounding her assault was agonising.

“It was the last resort,” she told AFP, describing herself as “desperate rather than brave”.

The former soldier is also suing the government and her perpetrators over the “superficial” apologies and mistreatment she received. AFP

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