Dutch court orders Filipino held over murder investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, AP

A Dutch court has ordered Filipino communist rebel leader Jose Maria Sison held for two weeks so prosecutors can investigate allegations he ordered the murder of two former allies in Manila.

Sison’s lawyer, Michiel Pestman, said Friday he had argued unsuccessfully for Sison’s immediate release. Sison denied the charges against him in a lengthy statement in court, the lawyer said.

Pestman said he had been instructed not to reveal details of the case.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office said only that the examining magistrate ordered Sison held in pretrial custody for 14 days. The next hearing was set for Sept. 7.

“The judge thinks there is enough evidence to hold him,” Pestman said. “I think that’s ludicrous.” Sison was being held in solitary confinement, Pestman added.

Sison, 68, 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.

On Friday, as the closed hearing was under way, demonstrators demanded Sison’s freedom.

He is suspected of ordering the killings of Romulo Kintanar in 2003 and Arturo Tabara in 2004. The Communist Party of the Philippines, which the European Union designated a terrorist group in 2002, claimed responsibility for both slayings.

Protesters wore white headbands bearing the slogan “Free Joma,” using Sison’s nickname. Bands blared as the demonstrators chanted anti-fascist, pro-socialist slogans. Dutch-based leftist groups waved banners of solidarity.