Five Japanese soldiers fired for high profile sexual assaults

Five Japanese soldiers have been fired in connection with high-profile sexual assault allegations by their former colleague, local media reported on Thursday.

In a rare instance of a victim going public with allegations in Japan, 23-year-old ex-soldier Rina Gonoi said she was assaulted by several male colleagues during a training exercise last year.

The military acknowledged the attacks in September and apologized to Gonoi after she submitted a petition signed by more than 100,000 people calling for an investigation into her ordeal.

According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, four employees in their 20s and 30s were fired on Thursday, along with an officer in his 40s who allegedly gave them orders.

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The military authorities could not immediately comment on AFP’s request.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that the head of the Ground Self-Defense Force, Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida, said he felt “a great responsibility as the leader of this organization for causing sad and painful feelings for Gonoi.”

Gonoi said in a tweet Thursday that she had filed criminal charges against three of the discharged soldiers.

In September, the army acknowledged that Gonoi was regularly subjected to sexual harassment and assault in its unit and during training sessions.

On one occasion, a male colleague pinched her neck, pinned her to the ground, forcibly spread her legs, and repeatedly pressed his crotch against her. Then two others did the same.

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Gonoi reported the incident to an Army sexual harassment adviser and the case was investigated and referred to prosecutors on suspicion of indecent assault.

But the case was dropped earlier this year due to insufficient evidence.

Gonoi was recently named one of the 25 most influential women of 2022 by the Financial Times.

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