A Japanese court on Tuesday convicted three former Ground Self-Defense Force members for acts of sexual indecency in 2021 committed against a female subordinate who made the rare move of coming forward to report the offenses.

The Fukushima District Court handed the men two years in prison, suspended for four years, for the assault on Rina Gonoi, 24, in the high-profile case that brought the culture of harassment in Japan's armed forces to public attention.

Gonoi's accusations prompted the Defense Ministry to dishonorably discharge Shutaro Shibuya, 31, Akito Sekine, 29, and Yusuke Kimezawa, 29, as well as two others and increase its efforts to address harassment issues.

Rina Gonoi, a former member of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, speaks to reporters in front of the Fukushima District Court in the northeastern city of Fukushima on Dec. 12, 2023, after the court convicted three former GSDF members for acts of sexual indecency in 2021 committed against her. Gonoi made the rare move of coming forward to report the offenses. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

"I would like the three of them to feel remorse," said Gonoi following the decision. "I'm satisfied because I feel that the ruling will help prevent more people from becoming victims (of sexual abuse) like me."

Prosecutors had sought two-year jail terms for the three accused men while their defense requested acquittals.

According to the ruling, the three used martial arts moves to force Gonoi onto a bed, where they each got on top of her, pressing their bodies against hers. The attack occurred while they were in the company of others, eating and drinking at a GSDF training facility in Hokkaido on Aug. 3, 2021.

During the trial, the three denied touching Gonoi in an indecent manner or intending to do so and stated that they had apologized to her at the instruction of the SDF before being discharged.

While Shibuya admitted in the trial to moving his hips around, he said it was "to make (others) laugh" by copying a comedian, and not sexual.

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Takaaki Miura acknowledged the credibility of Gonoi's testimony while criticizing the defendants' statements as "unnatural, unreasonable, and untrustworthy."

He stressed that, regardless of intent, their actions were clearly sexually suggestive and therefore constituted sexual indecency.

The three "treated (Gonoi) as a mere object to enliven the party, dehumanizing her, and behaved in a despicable and malicious manner that significantly shamed her sexually," Miura said.

The defendants appeared expressionless and hardly moved as the verdict was read out.

Gonoi, who was serving in a unit at Camp Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, left the GSDF in June last year.

Fukushima prosecutors initially did not indict the three men in May 2022 due to insufficient grounds for suspicion. But the decision was challenged by the Koriyama Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, an independent panel of citizens tasked with reviewing prosecutors' decisions, which reopened the case in September that year.

They were indicted without arrest in March this year by the prosecutors who reexamined the case.

Gonoi was selected by Time magazine as one of 2023's 100 emerging global talents for exposing the culture of sexual abuse within Japan's armed forces.

Yuuichi Sakurai, 66, president of the company where Gonoi currently works, said the ruling "proves that it can be worth speaking out," adding that he hoped it would provide encouragement for other victims who have suffered similar assault.

Related coverage:

2 years sought for 3 ex-SDF members in high-profile sex offense case

Abused ex-GSDF member attends Time event, says speaking out is key

3 ex-SDF troops plead not guilty in high-profile sexual offense case