US marine guilty of Filipina transgender killing

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U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (R) is escorted into a court in Olongapo city, north of Manila December 1, 2015Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Joseph Scott Pemberton (centre) was 19 years old at the time of the killing

A court in the Philippines has found a US marine guilty of killing a transgender woman.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of killing Jennifer Laude in a hotel room in Olongapo city, north-west of Manila, last year.

Pemberton will face between six and 12 years imprisonment.

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

The marine was on leave in Olongapo on 11 October 2014, after joint military exercises with the Philippine army, when he met Ms Laude in a bar.

Police said they left together and checked into a hotel, where she was found dead the next day, apparently strangled and with her head inside the hotel toilet.

Pemberton had previously testified in court that he had attacked Ms Laude after he realised she was transgender, but said she was still alive when he left the room.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Protesters gathered on Tuesday to await the verdict
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The case strained relations between the Philippines and the US

The prosecution had argued Pemberton should be convicted of murder, but the court downgraded this to homicide.

Pemberton was also ordered to pay at least 4.5 million pesos ($95,350; £63,140) to Ms Laude's family.

Ms Laude's sister, Malou, told Reuters news agency: "We expected a murder conviction but instead got homicide. We are not content with the decision."

Pemberton will be temporarily detained in a Philippine jail until the Philippine and US governments agree on where he should be held during his prison term.

The case has led to calls from left-wing groups for the Philippines to end its military agreements with the US.

Under the agreement, the Philippines can prosecute US military personnel but the US retains custody over them "from the commission of the offence until completion of all judicial proceedings", the Associated Press reports.