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US marine rape charge quashed in Philippines

A PHILIPPINE appeals court overturned the 2006 rape conviction of a United States Marine and ordered his immediate release yesterday, setting off condemnations from activists.

A suburban Manila court convicted Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of raping a Filipino woman in the company of fellow Marines at the former US Subic Bay Naval base three years ago and sentenced him to life in prison. The case has become a rallying point for anti-American protests in the country.

The Philippine Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, indicating the sexual act was consensual.

"No evidence was introduced to show force, threat and intimidation applied by the accused," the court said in its 71-page decision, which is final.

It ordered the immediate release of Smith, 23, of St. Louis, Missouri, from his detention at the US Embassy in Manila.

Smith's lawyer Jose Justiniano said his client "got the justice that he deserved," but leftist groups condemned it, saying it was proof of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's subservience to America.

"We are outraged," said Renato Reyes of the prominent group Bayan. "This denial of justice can only be blamed on Mrs Arroyo, whose subservience to the US and veneration of the VFA knows no bounds."

He was referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement, a 1999 accord that allows US forces to conduct war exercises in the Philippines, a former colony.

Leftist groups have demanded the scrapping of the accord, citing the rape case.

In March, the woman who accused Smith of rape altered her testimony and emigrated to the United States in a dramatic twist in the case, saying she was no longer certain that a crime took place.


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