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Demo to free Filipino communist leader as he appears in Dutch court on murder charges

Demo to free Filipino communist leader as he appears in Dutch court on murder charges

Demonstrators outside a Dutch courtroom Monday demanded freedom for Jose Maria Sison, the self-exiled Philippines communist leader, as he appeared before a judge to hear allegations that he ordered the killing of two former allies who had abandoned the rebel cause.
Prosecutors were due to begin presenting their evidence during a closed hearing as a few dozen supporters gathered outside.
Sison was arrested Tuesday in the town of Utrecht where he has lived for 20 years. Dutch police swept through the office of his National Democratic Front and through at least seven other apartments, seizing computer hard drives, discs, files and books and questioning his aides. No one else was arrested.
He is suspected of ordering the killings in Manila of Romulo Kintanar in 2003 and Arturo Tabara in 2004. The Communist Party of the Philippines, which the European Union designated as a terrorist group in 2002, claimed responsibility for both slayings.
Protesters wore white headbands with the slogan, "Free Joma," using Sison's nickname. Bands blared music as the demonstrators chanted anti-fascist, pro-socialist slogans. Dutch-based leftist groups also waved banners of solidarity.
Grace Punongbayan, of Sison's Marxist umbrella group, said Dutch authorities had tried before and failed to bring charges against Sison. "Now here comes another attempt to persecute him politically," she said.
Sison's wife Julie said she feared for her husband's health in prison, and was concerned he could die in his cell. "I have not been allowed to contact him, and I do not trust the doctors in prison," she told The Associated Press.
She displayed bruises on her arm which she said she sustained when police raided her home and prevented her from calling a lawyer.
In 1992, Kintanar and Tabara broke away from the mainstream Communist Party due to differences over whether to pursue Maoist revolutionary strategy, upon which Sison founded the party in 1968 and its armed wing in 1969.
Authorities have declined to disclose the nature of the evidence against Sison, but said it originated both in the Netherlands and the Philippines.
In Manila, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Sison would be given normal protection by his government during the legal proceedings.
"As a Filipino, he will be entitled to the regular consular assistance, which would include visitations and seeing to it that he is provided the legal assistance he would need," Bunye said.
He is standing trial in the Netherlands, where the alleged crime was committed. "We will just let the Dutch judicial process proceed," Bunye said.
The Philippines government has long sought to bring Sison home to face charges stemming from his leadership of the communist rebel movement, but no extradition treaty exists between the two countries. Manila removed one obstacle toward a treaty when it abolished capital punishment last year.
Sison, 68, describes himself as a political consultant for the National Democratic Front, which has been engaged in off-and-on peace talks with Manila to end the 39-year insurgency.


Updated : 2021-06-14 18:08 GMT+08:00