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Filipino scientist freed after 10 months in jail

Gargar arrested on research project and accused of communist links

Filipino scientist freed after 10 months in jail

Kim Gargar in detention (Photo courtesy of Free Kim Gargar movement)

Joe Torres, Manila

August 4, 2014

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A Filipino scientist arrested while conducting a research project in Mindanao last year was released on Friday after 10 months in jail.

Authorities released biologist Kim Gargar after family and friends posted a US$4,800 bail.

Gargar was conducting research for an environmental rehabilitation project for typhoon victims in Mindanao in October 2013 when he was arrested by the military along with Restita Miles, of the Catholic Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. She remains missing. 

Authorities alleged that Gargar was a soldier in the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. They claimed the two were involved in the ambush of a government patrol on October 1 last year.

However, Gargar's supporters said he was studying in the Netherlands for the four years prior to his arrest.

The scientist was detained over charges of "possession of explosives, violation of the [election] gun ban and two cases of attempted murder".

In an interview with journalists in Davao City, Gargar described his release as "victorious". He said he was happy because he would be able to continue serving the people.

Human rights groups earlier lobbied for the release of Gargar and to lessen the bail, which was originally pegged at US$9,100.

The Free Kim Gargar alliance rights advocates and friends of the scientist reiterated its call on the government to drop all the "baseless" charges against Gargar.

"That the court granted Gargar's release on bail, in spite of the non-bailable charge against him of illegal possession of explosive devices, is an indication of how baseless all the charges against him are," the group said in a statement released on Sunday.

The group said Gargar's case was not the first time that the military accused scientists and researchers in the field of supporting the rebels. The group cited the case of botanist Leonard Co and his companions who were fired upon by the military after being mistaken for rebels in 2010.

Noel Jalmasco of the group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, said Gargar's release "is only a partial relief, because the cases have yet to be heard".

Gargar is a former professor at the state-run University of the Philippines and was a doctoral candidate of Groningen University in the Netherlands at the time of his arrest.

"We attribute this partial victory not only to the fact that the military's accounts and charges were false, but also to the tireless efforts of family and friends," said Rog Amon of the Center for Environmental Concerns.

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