Australia Arrests 3 U.S. Marines
Associated Press
February 8, 2004

DARWIN, Australia - Police have arrested three U.S. Navy personnel on charges of raping two women in the northern city of Darwin while on shore leave, authorities said Sunday.

Police said the three men, ages 20, 21 and 22, were charged early Sunday with assaulting two sisters after returning to the women's apartment from a nightclub Friday night.

The three men are assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, said Lt. Chris Davis, public affairs officer with the navy's Expeditionary Strike Group.

An earlier report incorrectly identified the men as Marines.

The three men will remain in Darwin while their ship, which is based in San Diego, leaves Australia, and the Navy will cooperate with the investigation, Davis said.

"We only hope that this issue has not damaged the good relationship the U.S. Navy has enjoyed with Australia," he said.

Some 4,500 U.S. military personnel from the Peleliu and two other ships were in Darwin this week on shore leave after serving in the Persian Gulf.

Police said Saturday they were called after a friend of the two women alerted U.S. Navy staff at the nightclub and accompanied them to the apartment, where the women, ages 23 and 26, were found in a semiconscious state.

The Marines were ordered to appear in Darwin Magistrates Court on Feb. 24. In line with Australian law, no details of their identities or home towns were released.

Darwin is the capital of the remote Northern Territory province. Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin said Saturday that she was disappointed by the allegations.

"By and large their behavior has been applauded by businesses and our community," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, referring to the visiting U.S. military personnel. "I would like it fully investigated and it will be by our police; these are serious allegations being made."

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