American sailor jailed for murder of Japanese taxi driver

Saturday, August 1, 2009

United States Navy Seal

An American sailor has been jailed over the murder of a Japanese taxi driver. Nigerian national Olatunbosun Ugbogu was sentenced in the Yokohama District Court. Ugbogu's lawyers claimed insanity but judges rejected the claim stating he was fully competent.

The murder took place in March 2008 when Ugbogu entered the cab of 61-year-old Masaaki Takahashi. Takahashi was ordered to drive approximately 60 km from Tokyo to the US Navy base in Yokosuka. Ugbogu then failed to pay the fare and stabbed Takahashi with a knife and fled the scene. He deserted the Navy the same month.

After the murder, the relationship between Japan and the United States became tense. Japanese officials stated that Ugbogu was not handed over to them fast enough, but the US Navy said he was handed over as soon as requested. The strained relationship prompted the US ambassador to apologize to the family of the murdered victim. After the murder the Yokosuka base banned the sale of alcohol and restricted travel.

Japan has around 50,000 US military personnel stationed in the country under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and the relationship with locals is often bitter, particularly in Okinawa, where around two-thirds of the American forces are based.