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 Philippines 'victim' recants in rape case: mother

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PostSubject: Philippines 'victim' recants in rape case: mother   Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:59 am

A woman at the centre of a rape trial which saw a US marine sentenced to 40 years and sparked a diplomatic row between Manila and Washington has reversed her testimony, her mother said Wednesday.

Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, 24, was convicted in December 2006 of raping the young Filipina in the back of a van in front of fellow US marines in November 2005.

Smith's conviction prompted Washington to threaten to call off large-scale exercises with Manila until Smith was transferred to a detention centre within the US embassy, where he remains two years on.

But the case has outraged nationalist and leftist groups, who have demanded that Smith be returned a local jail.

Smith's appeal to get his sentence overturned was boosted Wednesday after the mother confirmed her daughter had given a fresh statement appearing to contradict what she said during the high-profile trial.

A Filipino court was told Smith met the woman in a bar in the northern Philippines port of Subic after taking part in joint US-Philippines military exercises.

However, the young woman has since signed a sworn statement casting doubt on her previous recollection that Smith had forced himself on her against her will, her mother told a local radio station Wednesday.

The complainant's lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, who helped government lawyers prosecute Smith, told reporters her client had fired her.

According to the local media, which obtained copies of her new deposition, the rape complainant said: "I kept on asking myself: If Daniel Smith wanted to rape me, why would he carry me out of the ... club using the main entrance in full view of the security guards and other customers?"

The woman added she could not have remembered the details of the supposed rape because she was passed out at the time. She said: "I do not recall anyone inside the van who held my hands or any part of my body."

The mother said her daughter had been traumatised by the publicity during and after the trial, and said she chose to escape by going to live in the US with her American boyfriend whom she met after the incident.

The mother denied her daughter had acted under pressure from the US embassy.

"That was her own decision," the mother said. "The whole family is supporting her."

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said he expected Smith to use the woman's new deposition in his appeal but insisted that the recantation had no bearing on the case.

"I don't think it will affect (the case) because you cannot compromise anymore after conviction," Gonzalez told reporters.

Even if Smith and the woman had signed a settlement, "you cannot undo the judgment of the (lower court) judge," Gonzalez said.

Foreign department spokesman Eduardo Malaya told reporters the Philippine government would "look to the courts for their evaluation and decision" on the unresolved issue of custody over Smith.

The Supreme Court last month ordered Manila to arrest Smith. The two countries are negotiating a new agreement on who has final custody of Smith.

The case had fuelled the Filipino left's efforts to get Manila, a former US colony, to walk away from a visiting forces agreement covering the legal status of US troops taking part in military exercises in the Philippines.
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