Michiel Pestman of the well-known and controversial law firm Bohler Franken Wijngaarden Koppe Law Office based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, referring to the case against Jose Maria Sison, said, “This case is the most political trial I’ve handled. This cannot be seen out of the political context in the Philippines.” But he added that he is confident that they would win the case because the evidence is weak.
BY D. L. MONDELO
Vol. VII, No. 38, October 29-November 3, 2007
(Amsterdam, The Netherlands) – A well known and controversial Dutch lawyer who is defending Prof. Jose Ma. Sison in the charge inciting to murder said he is confident Sison would not be convicted in the double murder charge filed by the Dutch Prosecutor’s Office.
Michiel Pestman of the well-known and controversial law firm Bohler Franken Wijngaarden Koppe Law Office based in this city stressed this point during a forum on “Repression and the violations of human rights under the pretext of the anti-terror law”, held Oct. 12 at the University of Amsterdam.
This was the first ever public forum for Pestman (and Sison who was also present), since he started handling the Sison case.
Pestman’s respected law firm has defended the likes of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish resistance movement PKK, the murderer of right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuin and controversial anti-Islam politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Rita Bohler. The founder of the firm is a senator of the Green Left Party in the Dutch Parliament.
Pestman himself is scheduled to travel to Cambodia to defend Nuon Chea, alleged right-hand man of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, before an international tribunal there.
At the forum, Pestman explained that the court of appeals in The Hague decided to reject the appeal of the Dutch prosecution to return Sison to detention because the evidence presented was weak.
Professor Sison was arrested last Aug. 28 while reporting at a police station in Utrecht city where he has lived for 20 years. Sison was immediately brought to the Scheveningen National Penitentiary, and was charged with inciting the murders of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara, who were both killed by the New People’s Army.
He was released after 14 days because the judges found no prima facie evidence on the charge.
Pestman revealed that after Sison was released “panic broke out” in the Netherlands and six Dutch police officers were immediately dispatched to Manila to save the case.
“This case is the most political trial I’ve handled. This cannot be seen out of the political context in the Philippines,” stressed Pestman.
He also criticized the Philippine government for deliberately misinforming Dutch authorities because on July 2 this year, the Philippine Supreme Court dismissed a similar case filed against Sison and several other progressive individuals for lack or merit and for being politically-motivated.
Pestman said the statements given by the witnesses were not reliable. He said most of the witnesses executed their affidavits at the U.S. and Dutch embassies in Manila, debunking claims made earlier by the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney that the US. did not interfere in the cases vs. Sison.
He also told the audience that in 2006, Philippine Foreign Affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo discreetly visited the Netherlands and brought with him a dossier for the Dutch government on alleged atrocities committed by Sison, complete with photos and contains about 200 pages. But he said, there was no direct evidence in those papers connecting Sison to the alleged crimes. Pestman said when the Arroyo government failed to convince Dutch authorities to extradite Sison, they proceeded to prosecute him.
In addition to the weak evidence of the prosecution, Pestman said the fact-finding mission report of the Amsterdam-based Lawyers for Lawyers that went to the Philippines to inquire into the extrajudicial killings and disappearances attributed to the Philippine military, became a strong basis for the court in The Hague to release Sison. A copy of the said report was submitted to the court judges.
The judges in The Hague also said in their decision to release Sison that it would be risky for defense lawyers to do research on the crime in the Philippines.
They (prosecution) can always amend the charge to war crimes, but it would bolster the implication that there is an armed conflict and an armed resistance movement in the Philippines, Pestman further explained. (Bulatlat.com)