Three former members of the Ground Self-Defense Force pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual indecency against a female subordinate in 2021 during their trial's first hearing on Thursday.

The case has gained substantial public attention as the victim, Rina Gonoi, 23, made the rare move last year of coming forward to expose sexual offenses while serving as a GSDF member. This prompted the Defense Ministry to dismiss the three and increase its efforts to address harassment issues.

At the Fukushima District Court, the three former GSDF sergeants — Shutaro Shibuya, Akito Sekine and Yusuke Kimezawa — claimed they did not press their lower bodies against Gonoi at a training facility in Hokkaido in August 2021, denying charges of indecency through compulsion.