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Fmr. Marine who fought Covid vaccine arrested in Japan

Nurse Cherry Costales prepares Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
December 22, 2023

A former U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal, who refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccination while stationed in Japan, was arrested earlier this month at her former military base in Japan.

According to Stars and Stripes, Japanese police explained that former Lance Corporal Catherine Arnett, age 25, was detained at roughly 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 by military police after she attempted to enter Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. A police spokesman told Stars and Stripes that Arnett was taken to Iwakuni city police at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 and was released from police custody “last week.”

Stars and Stripes reported that Arnett spent 113 days in brigs after being returned to California under the custody of the U.S. Marine Corps earlier this year. Arnett faced discharge for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and refusing to return to the U.S. three times while serving as a lance corporal in Iwakuni.

At the time, Arnett was also charged with missing a military flight, insubordination, disobeying an officer, and other offenses related to her refusal to return to the United States. However, the Marine Corps ultimately dropped all of the charges against Arnett, released her from custody, and administratively discharged her.

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While Arnett did not provide a response to Stars and Stripes regarding the latest incident in Japan, the outlet reported that a woman who claimed to be Arnett’s secretary claimed that Arnett had engaged in an act of civil disobedience by returning to her former Marine base in Japan.

“Ms. Arnett was solely standing on the principle that since the mandate was unconstitutional from the jump, all other actions that transpired as a result were also unlawful orders,” Jamie Engel told Stars and Stripes in a statement. “She arrived at the base to take the stand and drive home the concept that she refused to take her DD214 and still refuses to comply with any separation orders.”

A government official in Japan told that Arnett was detained by military police stationed at the base due to suspicion that she had violated the status of forces agreement between the United States and Japan.

“Catherine Arnett was separated from the United States Marine Corps several months ago and has since had no official affiliation with the service,” 1st Lt. Aaron Ellis, a Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni spokesman, told Stars and Stripes. “Since Catherine Arnett is a civilian, we do not have any additional information.” 

Ellis noted that Japanese authorities can prosecute the unauthorized entry of U.S. military bases in Japan. A spokesperson for the Yamaguchi District Public Prosecutor’s Office told Stars and Stripes Tuesday that while the incident was referred to Japanese prosecutors, a decision has not been made regarding whether Japan will prosecute the former Marine.