2004Edition>News Center>World

Australia charges US Marines with rape
Updated: 2004-02-08 10:21

Police have arrested three U.S. Marines on charges of raping two women in the northern port city of Darwin while on shore leave, authorities said Sunday.

Police said the three men, ages 20, 21 and 22, were each charged early Sunday over allegations they assaulted two sisters at the women's apartment on Friday night after returning from a nightclub.

Some 4,500 Marines have been on shore leave this week in Darwin after serving in the Persian Gulf.

Police said Saturday they were called after a friend concerned for the sisters' safety 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.

U.S. Navy officials were not immediately available for comment.

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 (the Marines') behavior has been applauded by businesses and our community so I'm disappointed that we've had an incident like this," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Web site.

"I would like it fully investigated and it will be by our police; these are serious allegations being made."

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