Philippine revolutionary José María Sison is free!
The district court (Rechtsbank) in The Hague has ordered the release of José María Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Professor Sison had been arrested by the Dutch police on 28 August and held in solitary confinement, without visits from family or his doctor. On 13 September, a court hearing was held to consider the authorities’ request that he be jailed an additional 90 days previous to trial on charges that he had ordered the killing of two former CPP members in 2003 and 2006 in the Philippines. Previously the Filipino Supreme Court dropped these charges against Sison; it was the Dutch government itself that decided to arrest and try him in Holland on the same charges.
The party’s involvement in the death of the two men does not seem to be in dispute. Statements from self-described CPP representatives said that they had been shot while resisting arrest at the hands of the party. The party had intended to put them on trial for crimes committed after they left the CPP, namely working with Philippine military intelligence in the one case and killing an elderly peasant leader in the other.
>The district court found there was insufficient evidence to support a presumption that Sison had “participated in” or “incited” the acts. Nevertheless, the court ruled only on the legality of Sison’s imprisonment, and apparently the charges themselves have not been formally dropped. The written decision explicitly says it does not “prejudice” (contradict) “the justified suspicion that the accused during the period described in the charges played a leading role in the aforementioned organizations” (the party and its Central Committee). “There are also indications that the accused is still playing a leading role in the (underground) activities of the CC, the CPP and the NPA [New People’s Army],” it said.
The idea that the facts of this case, real or alleged, might have much to do with comrade Sison’s arrest is contradicted by the Dutch authorities’ behaviour toward him for the past two decades. The “terrorist” label and charges brought against him have had no other purpose than the criminalizing of revolution.
He was forced into exile in the Netherlands in 1988 when the Philippine government cancelled his passport while he was travelling abroad. The Dutch government turned down his requests for political asylum, despite the fact that as the recognized leader of a widely supported revolutionary struggle involving millions of people, he might seem like a textbook example of the kind of person the concept of asylum is supposed to protect. Instead, he has faced a series of flimsy charges that have fallen apart one after the other.
Following the baton of the US government, in 2002 the Dutch government placed his name on its “terrorist” list, without explanation, despite the complete lack of any charges against him at that point. This blacklisting has meant serious restrictions of his ability to work, travel and live. It was adopted by the European Union, and it still stands, despite a recent ruling by a European Union court that this status was unfairly imposed on him.
At the same time as the 68-year-old Sison was tricked into presenting himself at a police station on false pretences so he could be arrested, his home in Utrecht and those of seven staff members of the CPP-led Philippine National Democratic Front in the Netherlands were raided and their documents, computers and boxloads of potential data storage devices confiscated. Police broke into Sison’s apartment and threatened and manhandled his wife, Julieta de Lima. Supporters called for a legal struggle to prevent the Dutch authorities from sharing whatever information they found with the Filipino government, which could very well lead to the arrest, torture and murder of contacts there, and to return the property.
During the 17 days Sison was held, more than 20 demonstrations demanding his release took place in the Philippines, Europe, North America and Asia. A groundswell of public opinion ranging from ordinary Filipinos everywhere to prominent international personalities demanded his release.
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