US Marine leaves Philippines after court acquittal

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A U.S. Marine whose rape conviction was overturned by the Philippine appeals court has left the country, the U.S. Embassy said Friday.

The news that Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith had "departed the Philippines under the authority of United States military officials" came a day after the Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's sentence — a decision that sparked protests, including one Friday in which about 200 demonstrators tried to march to the embassy before they were stopped by police.

Three years ago, Smith was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for raping a Filipino woman after a night of drinking.

The emotional case soon turned into a political tug-of-war between the government — keen on maintaining smooth relations with its key ally — and nationalist, left-wing and women's rights activists eager to showcase that the Philippines can do without U.S. protection.

Smith spent only about three weeks in a Philippine jail before U.S. officials obtained custody, arguing that the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries allowed them to hold the Marine until his legal appeal was resolved.

The U.S. Embassy statement did not say when Smith left the country or where he was headed and the embassy spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for details.

"This has been a difficult and emotional case for all involved, especially their families and loved ones. We hope that the parties can now move on with their lives," the statement said.

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