Filipino Protesters Storm U.S. Embassy Over Marine Convicted of Rape

About two dozen protesters stormed the American Embassy in Manila on Sunday, pounding a U.S. government seal at the gate with their fists and a brick before surprised policemen pushed them away.

The protesters demanded the transfer to a Philippine jail of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was convicted exactly a year ago of raping a Filipino woman but has remained under U.S. government custody at the heavily fortified embassy.

Taking advantage of the absence of policemen, who usually stand guard outside the embassy, the protesters ran toward the gates and used their fists and a red brick to pound a bronze U.S. government seal on the wall, an Associated Press photographer at the scene said.

Policemen later arrived and pushed them away but did not make any arrests.

"It has been one year and he is still being protected by the United States government," said protest leader Vencer Crisostomo, adding that American soldiers should face the consequences of crimes they commit overseas.

The protesters demanded the repeal of the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows large numbers of American troops to join war exercises in the Philippines.

A suburban Manila court convicted Smith last year of raping a Filipino woman in a van as fellow Marines cheered him on. The court sentenced him to 40 years in prison for the act, which was committed while he was on liberty after taking part in military exercises north of Manila.

Smith, from St. Louis, claimed that the sex was consensual and has appealed the court ruling.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government agreed to allow Smith to be detained at the U.S. Embassy during his appeal, angering women's groups and left-wing activists.

Smith's conviction has been hailed as a victory for women's rights and Philippine independence. The Philippines is a former American colony.