Protest against communist's arrest

29th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

Protest against communist's arrest

29 August 2007

AMSTERDAM (AP) - Dutch supporters of a Philippine Communist rebel leader on Wednesday denounced his arrest on murder charges as politically motivated, and said they plan a series of demonstrations.

Jose Maria Sison, 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 former allies in 2003 and 2004. Sison denies it.

Ruth de Leon, a spokeswoman for the Committee to Defend Democratic Rights, said Sison sympathisers would gather near the Dutch national monument on Amsterdam's Dam Square on Thursday, and outside the courthouse in the Hague where he is due to appear before a judge on Friday.

She said the arrest was motivated by two rulings in July by courts in the Philippines and Europe favourable to Sison. The Philippines' Supreme Court dismissed rebellion charges against him; the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg reversed a freeze of his bank accounts after he was added to the EU's list of terrorism suspects in 2002, citing procedural reasons.

"I think they're really angry about that," she said.

Friday's hearing will be a major test of the strength of the Dutch case against Sison.

Prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said even if judges order Sison released - which he considered unlikely - the investigation against him would proceed.

De Bruin would not comment on the nature of evidence against Sison, but confirmed it came from both the Philippines and the Netherlands.

A team of Dutch prosecutors had travelled to the Philippines to take witness depositions, he added.

In Utrecht, teams of police raided Sison's office, seizing computers, CDs, documents and books. Prosecutors said they had raided at least seven other addresses in Utrecht and the nearby town of Abcoude as part of the investigation, and several of Sison's supporters were interrogated.

Defence lawyer Jan Fermon said he didn't know yet what evidence prosecutors will present Friday.

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's armed wing claimed responsibility for the slayings.

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

Philippine government authorities called Sison's arrest Tuesday "a triumph of justice," while communist groups said it would likely end any chance of peace negotiations, which have been suspended since 2004.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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