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Murder trial for US marine Pemberton in Philippines

US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton (C) leaves a court building in the Philippine city of Olongapo, 23 March 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pemberton faces life in jail if found guilty

The trial of a US marine accused of murdering a transgender woman has started at a local court in the Philippines.

Prosecutors say Joseph Scott Pemberton killed Jennifer Laude in a hotel room after discovering her sex.

The case has strained ties between the US and the Philippines, a former US colony where the Americans have a significant military presence.

The trial began after attempts to strike a plea deal failed.

Laude's family were reportedly offered 21m pesos ($468,000; £315,000) to approve lowering the charge from murder to homicide, which carries a lesser maximum sentence, though one of Pemberton's lawyers was cited by AFP news agency as denying money had been offered.

Julita Cabillan, Laude's mother, told reporters that "no amount of money could pay for the years I spent raising my child".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The case has angered many in the Philippines
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Defence ties between the US and the Philippines are seen by some there as unequal

The marine was transported to the court in Olongapo, a city north-west of the capital Manila, by US escorts.

Under the terms of a defence pact signed between the US and the Philippines, the US retained custody of Pemberton, despite demands for him to be handed over to Philippine authorities.

The prosecutors' first witness was a hotel worker who testified to having seen Pemberton with Laude on the night she was killed.

Pemberton, who was 19 at the time of the killing, faces life in prison if found guilty.

He declined to enter a plea at a pre-trial hearing last month, as he is attempting to have the case dismissed by a higher court.

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