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Political prisoners stage hunger strike

Group urges president to review cases countrywide

Political prisoners stage hunger strike
Human rights activists call for the immediate release of political prisoners
Djay Lazaro, Manila

March 18, 2011

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Political prisoners in the central Philippines are holding a fast this week to demand for their release. The prisoners called on president Benigno Aquino III to immediately order the review of the cases of 344 political prisoners all over the country. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the first agenda-based agreement between the Philippine government and communist rebels, binds the government to free all political prisoners who are believed to have been "wrongfully charged." Human rights group Karapatan (Rights) said that of the 344 political prisoners, 80 percent were arrested during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. "Its nine-year reign made sure that besides experiencing physical and psychological torture upon arrest, almost all political prisoners get detained or convicted," the group said. Karapatan also urged Aquino to undertake "necessary corrective measures" by ordering the justice department to review the cases of political prisoners. "To do so is an act of justice from a president who was the main beneficiary of the broad anti-Arroyo sentiment of the people," the group said. It also called for the immediate freedom of 13 peace consultants of the communist-led National Democratic Front whose release was assured by a joint statement of the government and the communist rebels. Karapatan said the release of all political prisoners is a "major test" for Aquino's sincerity in implementing CARHRIHL and in resuming formal peace negotiations with the rebels. PM13675.1645
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