Supporters protest communist's arrest

31st August 2007, Comments 0 comments

31 August 2007, AMSTERDAM (AP) - A small group of supporters and sympathisers gathered in Amsterdam Thursday to protest the arrest of a Philippine communist leader on murder charges they say are politically motivated.

31 August 2007

AMSTERDAM (AP) - A small group of supporters and sympathisers gathered in Amsterdam Thursday to protest the arrest of a Philippine communist leader on murder charges they say are politically motivated.

Around 50 people protested the arrest this week of Jose Maria Sison, gathering near the Dutch national monument on Dam Square. Some held signs demanding his release, while others carried photographs of dissidents they said have been abducted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government. Members of the Dutch communist party and other groups waved flags and carried banners in a show of support.

"We condemn Sison's arrest, which the government of the Philippines is using to divert attention from its human rights violations," said Chico Taguba, spokesman for the Netherlands-Philippines Solidarity Movement.

Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, was arrested Tuesday in Utrecht, the central Dutch city where he has lived in exile for 20 years.

Prosecutors say he ordered the killings of two former allies in 2003 and 2004, which Sison denies. He is to be brought before a judge for an initial appearance Friday.

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the international arm of the National Democratic Front, an umbrella organisation of far-left Philippine groups, said at the demonstration the charges against Sison "were without any basis." He said Sison's lawyers will only learn what evidence prosecutors plan to present Friday shortly before the hearing.

Sison, 68, is suspected of ordering the killings of Romulo Kintanar in 2003 and Arturo Tabara in 2004 - both of them former allies who abandoned the communists - prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday. The Philippines Communist Party, which was designated a terrorist group by the European Union in 2002, has claimed responsibility for the slayings.

Sison says he is a political consultant for the National Democratic Front, which has been involved in off-and-on peace negotiations with Manila to end the 39-year insurgency.

He has been denied asylum in the Netherlands, but courts have ruled he cannot be extradited to the Philippines.

Jalandoni said that if prosecutors were hoping to prove Sison still has effective control over armed communist rebels in the Philippines, they were "out of touch with reality."

Sison "does not give orders to people over 10,000 miles away," he said. "He has been out of the county for 20 years, out of the leadership (of armed groups) for over 30 years."

But the Philippine military believes Sison is a leader, often writing revolutionary treatises under the pseudonym Armando Liwanag.

Dutch national prosecutors have declined to elaborate on evidence against Sison, but spokesman Wim de Bruin said it was collected by teams of researchers in both the Netherlands and the Philippines.

The case will be tried in the Netherlands, since Sison allegedly ordered the murders from here, De Bruin said.

Jalandoni protested what he said were heavy-handed tactics by Dutch police during raids on seven homes in Utrecht Tuesday.

In addition, he said Sison had not been allowed to see his wife since his arrest; had no access to his regular heart medication; and his lawyers were not allowed to be present during interrogations, viewing them remotely by video.

"Under the Marcos dictatorship we would expect this," he said, referring to the regime that ruled the Philippines in the 1980s. "But in the Netherlands it's shocking."

Arroyo hailed Sison's arrest Tuesday as "a giant step toward peace" but communist groups said it would likely end any chance of peace negotiations, which have been suspended since 2004.

Police kept about 200 protesters from approaching the Dutch Embassy in Manila on Wednesday.

Bart Rijs, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry, said the embassy has been closed since Wednesday as a precaution.

But he said it is scheduled to reopen Monday, and the Dutch do not intend to withdraw any staff.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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