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Jose Maria Sison’s trial: No proof of “terrorist” tag
By Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano
Published in PINOY WEEKLY
(Vol. 3, No. 45, December 1-7 2004)
Original version:

“They call me a ‘terrorist’ but they don’t show the documents they claim as basis for putting me on the list, and they cannot cite a single incident of so-called terrorism that they can supposedly associate me with.”

This was Jose Maria Sison’s triumphant statement after his appeal demanding the release of the Council of the European Union’s documents allegedly proving him to be a terrorist was heard in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg last November 17.

The Council of the EU has three times denied to furnish Sison with documents that would give the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and current chief political consultant of the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) the opportunity to defend himself from the arbitrary accusation that has denied him his democratic rights as an individual and political refugee in the Netherlands.

Present at the trial to support Sison were individuals and organizations from different countries such as the Filipino Resource Center-Norway, Netherlands-Filipino Solidarity Group, BC (Canada) Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Kaisa ng Bayan, Committee DEFEND International, Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hongkong, Filipino-Belgian Group (FGB), the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Anakpawis party-list Philippine Peace Center, and the NDFP Negotiating Peace Panel.

Meanwhile, groups affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a simultaneous protest action in front of the Dutch embassy in Manila, Philippines, united with the call to defend Sison’s rights.

‘Right to due process’ railroaded

Last August 2002, the US government declared the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army) as “foreign terrorist organizations” and Sison as a “terrorist.” This provoked the same action from the Dutch government, and last October 28, 2002, the Council of the EU also listed Sison and the NPA as “terrorists.”

With the help of an international team of lawyers, Sison filed a case before the European Court of Justice (First Instance) to get his name off the terrorist list last February 6, 2003. Because of the EU Council’s refusal to show Sison the documents that are supposedly proof of his crimes as a terrorist, Sison appealed to the same Court his rights to such documents.

According to Jan Fermon, Sison’s counsel, his client’s case is proving to be a highly important one since it challenges the violation of basic human rights caused by the US-led “war on terror.”

“I think it’s a test case because if the Council gets away with this in Court, if it can publicly accuse anyone of being a terrorist without granting him any possibility to defend himself, that would set us back 500 years to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. You were accused of crimes and were not allowed to know which crimes and were not allowed access to dossiers. That would of course be a tremendous setback for a whole series of fundamental rights,” said Fermon in an interview with PINOY WEEKLY.

In Sison’s trial, the EU Council’s lawyer, Martin Bauer, himself admitted that Sison’s demand to access the evidence against him is fully legitimate. However, Bauer insisted that the question of access to documents be taken up instead during the proceedings of his main case, which is set to start anytime soon.

According to Fermon, this violates Sison’s rights to “due process” that is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). According to Article 6, an individual has the right to know the nature and details of the accusations against him.

Though unproven, the Dutch government has already treated Sison as a “terrorist” by revoking his democratic rights.

Ever since Sison’s “terrorist” tag, the Dutch government has cut off his meager social benefits, evicted him from his home, prevented him from seeking employment and traveling outside the Netherlands, and froze his personal bank account containing not more than ?2,000.

Such actions were undertaken despite the absence of any pending criminal cases against Sison in EU, US, or even Philippine courts.

Fermon believes that the EU Council is circumventing its obligation to show Sison the documents by using several loopholes in the law regarding access to documents.

In the previous decisions of the Council of the EU, they stated that revealing such documents would be a “threat to security” and will destroy “international relations.” The Council of the EU also reasoned that the European governments who submitted such documents refused to reveal their identities and the contents of the documents.

Fermon is positive that even if the Court rejects their appeal for access to documents this time around, their arguments will be stronger during Sison’s main trial regarding his de-listing, since the EU Council has already admitted the documents’ necessity for Sison’s defense.

No evidence

Sison believes that the Council of the EU holds no such documents that would prove that he is a terrorist. “If they have it, then I would have been arrested as long time ago,” Sison told PINOY WEEKLY.

Sison asserted that his movements have been severely restricted these past two years in a way that constitutes unjust punishment.

“When you have a right, it cannot be taken away, but it can be restricted unless you are subject to punishment. But because of the length of deprivation (of rights), it’s not anymore deprivation but punitive action,” said Sison.

The latest of these punitive actions is the refusal of the US government to give Sison his royalties from the book “At Home In the World: Portrait of A Revolutionary,” which he co-wrote with the famous Filipino writer Ninotchka Rosca and was published in the US.

Sison has filed a separate case against the Dutch government for taking away his rights as a political refugee, which was heard last October 29.

Even though Sison continues to fight for his rights in the courts, he doesn’t fully expect the courts to take his side. This is because the tide of conservatism is still strong among judges, who cater to the interests of the state rather than the individual, according to Sison.

“The Bill of Rights should protect the rights of the ordinary civilian who don’t have the means to defend themselves against the power of the state. But in reality, the reverse is happening,” he said.

Despite this, Sison is ready to fight for his rights no matter how long it takes. After all, he is one used to long trials, being a victim of Martial Law whose case against former dictator Ferdinand Marcos lasted for nine years before it was won.

Awareness and solidarity

Sison believes that because of his “terrorist” tag, many are becoming more and more aware of how the US government is using the “war on terror” as a pretext to suppress people’s liberation movements in different countries. His case has also exposed the close connivance of the US and European governments towards this objective, in the pursuit to control the world’s oil and other natural resources, particularly in the Middle East.

Last May, almost 150 people attended an ILPS-sponsored conference in Montreal, Canada entitled “Laws, Labels, and Liberation,” which primarily discussed and garnered support for Sison’s case.

Meanwhile, in the recently concluded Second International Assembly of the ILPS in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Sison was elected as its chairperson. ILPS is a mass formation of more than 200 organizations in 40 countries fighting for varied people’s concerns and against US imperialism.

In events in out of the Philippines, people are calling for the removal of Sison’s “terrorist” tag. This is proof that he is not a “terrorist” but a revolutionary who is respected for his ideas and experiences in his long service to the Philippine revolution and to the anti-imperialist struggle in the whole world.###

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