Philippine Court of Appeals reverses rape conviction of US Marine

Philippine Court of Appeals reverses rape conviction of US Marine Manila - The Philippine Court of Appeals on Thursday overturned the rape conviction of a US Marine sentenced in 2006 to life in prison in the alleged assault of a Filipino woman, which provoked protests and outrage in the former American colony. The Court of Appeals ordered the immediate release of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, 24, who has been in the custody of the US embassy in Manila since he was convicted in December 2006.

Smith was convicted of raping Suzette Nicolas, 25, in the back of a moving van in the Subic Bay Freeport, 90 kilometres north of Manila, in November 2005.

But the Court of Appeals set aside the conviction and ruled that the prosecution failed to present evidence to show that Smith used force and intimidation to abuse Nicolas.

"No evidence was presented to show force, threat and intimidation applied by the accused upon Nicole," the decision said, using the codename given to Nicolas during the trial.

The reversal came two months after Nicolas issued an affidavit raising doubts about her allegations that she was raped.

Nicolas, who has since left to live in the United States, said she was too drunk to remember what happened and might have consented to having sex with Smith after all.

The Court of Appeals decision was expected to trigger anti-American demonstrations in the Philippines, where Smith's detention at the US embassy has been highly controversial.

The embassy insisted that a visiting forces agreement between the Philippines and the United States allows for Smith to remain in US custody until his conviction becomes final.

The agreement details rules on the treatment of US forces visiting the Philippines for training and joint military exercises with Filipino troops.

But the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in February that Smith should be held in a local facility and that a diplomatic agreement to detain Smith at the US embassy was not in line with the visiting forces agreement. (dpa)