Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Among those accused of cyber libel and sedition was Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, above. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.


Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

Updated 13 min 59 sec ago

Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

  • All 10 people had denied the charges, and said they were tortured
  • The defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents

SAINT PETERSBURG: A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.
Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, was sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.
Ten other people who are also from Central Asia were sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.
All had denied the charges, and said they were tortured.
Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounded the glass of the courtroom cage and cried “let me go” after she was handed a 20-year term.
The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.
The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.
Ten of the defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, notably by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents.
The charges ranged from organizing a terrorist group and perpetrating an “act of terror” to weapons trafficking and making explosive devices.
Critics of the case say the defendants’ connection to the attack was not proven and some claimed they were framed by Russia’s FSB security service.
The suspects had been arrested in different Russian cities and detained in Moscow before being transferred to Saint Petersburg for the trial.
The prosecution said the defendants formed two “terrorist cells” in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and helped Djalilov by wiring him money and providing the explosives.
Defense lawyers and prison monitors have pointed to numerous irregularities in the case however and claim that evidence was planted.
One defendant claimed he was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyrgyzstan, while another said last month that they had been framed by the FSB after it “missed the terrorist.”
The bombing was claimed by an obscure group, the Imam Shamil Battalion, which experts say is linked to Al-Qaeda.