US troops abused women during occupation, says Japan mayor

Updated 18 May 2013

US troops abused women during occupation, says Japan mayor

TOKYO: Osaka's abrasive mayor yesterday hit back at US criticism of his remarks on wartime sex slavery, claiming American troops abused Japanese women during their seven-year occupation.
Washington denounced as "outrageous" comments earlier this week by Toru Hashimoto, who said "comfort women" forced to provide sex to Japanese troops during World War II were a military necessity.
"Mayor Hashimoto's comments were outrageous and offensive," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, urging Tokyo to work with its neighbors to address the past issue.
Up to 200,000 "comfort women" from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military during WWII, according to many mainstream historians.
But Hashimoto, whose quick tongue and forthright approach has won him friends and enemies in equal measure, hit back on Twitter.
"Let me go straight to the point. When America occupied Japan, didn't they make use of Japanese women?" Hashimoto Tweeted to his million followers.
"I can't help but point out that it is unfair for America to criticise only Japan by putting aside acts by its own country," said Hashimoto, who has been mentioned as a possible future prime minister.
"(The United States) should face what the US military did against local women, in particular Okinawan women when they occupied Japan," he added.
US-led Allied powers controlled Japan until 1952 following its surrender at the end of World War II.
The southern prefecture of Okinawa remained under US governance for another two decades before being returned to Tokyo.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower is among credible sources who say American troops committed multiple rapes of Japanese women during the occupation and that press censorship muted reporting of these crimes.
Hashimoto also claimed that France and Germany were among countries that introduced wartime "comfort stations".
"It is a historical fact that the comfort station system was used during the Korean War and the Vietnam War," he Tweeted. He gave no details of this claim and did not say which side's soldiers used the brothels.
There is no mainstream evidence that modern militaries other than Japan's have employed a formal sex slavery system.
On Monday, Hashimoto prompted outrage at home and abroad by saying that soldiers living with the daily threat of death needed some way to let off steam and that this was provided by the comfort women system.
He said he believed the system was wrong and that former sex slaves deserved an apology.
The opinion that there is no proof of direct involvement in the sex slave system by the state or the imperial army is not uncommon on the right of Japanese politics.


Graft trial for Syrian President Assad’s uncle opens in Paris

Updated 19 min 41 sec ago

Graft trial for Syrian President Assad’s uncle opens in Paris

  • Lawyers for Rifaat Assad cited health problems as the reason for his absence
  • He is dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding troops that put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982

PARIS: Syrian President Bashar Assad’s uncle went on trial in Paris Monday on charges of pilfering Syrian state coffers and using the spoils to build a property empire in France.
The dock was empty as the hearing got underway, with lawyers for 82-year-old Rifaat Assad citing health problems as the reason for his absence.
“His doctors have recommended that he avoids all stressful situations,” lawyer Pierre Cornut-Gentille told the Paris court.
Rifaat Assad, dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding troops that put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014.
This year, an investigating magistrate ordered he stand trial on charges of organized money laundering related to his 90-million-euro ($99.5-million) property portfolio in France.
The trial of the younger brother of Syrian ex-president Hafez Assad — the current president’s father — is scheduled to last until December 18.
It concerns crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian funds.
Assad, who splits his time between France and Britain, denies the charges.
Formerly Syria’s vice president, Assad left his home country in 1984 after mounting a failed coup against his brother Hafez, who led Syria from 1971 to 2000.
After he arrived in Europe, Rifaat Assad’s lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows.
His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one measuring 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm, a chateau and 7,300 square meters of office space in Lyon.
He and his family also built up a huge portfolio of 507 properties in Spain, valued at around 695 million euros, Spanish legal documents show. All his properties in that country were seized by the authorities in 2017.
Assad has maintained that his lifestyle was made possible by gifts from the Saudi royal family that amounted to more than a million dollars per month.
But despite documents from Assad’s lawyers meant to justify gifts of almost $25 million between 1984 and 2010, French investigators registered transfers of only $10 million from Saudi Arabia.
This is only the second trial of a foreign dignitary in France on charges related to “ill-gotten gains.”
The first, Equatorial Guinea vice president Teodorin Obiang, received a three-year suspended jail term in October 2017 after being convicted of using public money to fund a jet-set lifestyle in Paris.
Paris has long been a favored destination for the corrupt gains of wealthy figures linked to political leaders in Africa, particularly in France’s former colonies.