Philippine Communist Leader Arrested In The Netherlands
The founder and leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, has been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of ordering the murders of former political allies, Dutch authorities said Tuesday.

Sison, who also set up the CPP's paramilitary New People's Army (NPA), a rebel group that has been fighting for a revolution since 1969, has been living in the Netherlands since 1987.

He was arrested in the central town of Utrecht where he has his residence.

"The communist leader was suspected of giving orders, from the Netherlands, to murder his former political associates in the Philippines, Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara," the Dutch national prosecutor's office said in a statement.

According to Dutch prosecutors, Sison ordered the assassination of Kintanar, the former leader of the NPA, on January 23, 2003 in the Philippines. The murder was claimed by the NPA itself in an official publication, they said.

They are also investigating the role of Sison in the murders of Tabara and his son-in-law Stephen Ong on September 26, 2006. Tabara was a member of the highest command of the NPA and his assassination was also claimed by the armed branch of Sison's CPP.

Sison, 68, had filed for political asylum in the 1980s but his request was rejected by the Dutch authorities. They ruled, however, that he could not be sent back to the Philippines because his life would be in danger there.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office here explained that Sison's arrest did not mean the Dutch planned to extradite him, as Manila requested in 2003.

"This is a Dutch criminal case as ordering a murder, even if it is committed abroad, is a criminal offence under Dutch law," spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.

Sison will appear in court in The Hague Friday for a remand hearing.

Since 2002, Sison and the Maoist-inspired CPP have been on the EU list of people and organisations aiding terrorism. His assets have been frozen and the Dutch state also blocked his pension.

Although Sison won one legal challenge against the listing, his name reappeared on a subsequent review of the list. To get that lifted he will have to file a separate legal challenge.

In an interview with Dutch daily "De Pers" a month ago Sison cast himself as a peacemaker and mediator for the Philippines. He rejected allegations from Manila about his involvement in crimes there.

Sison complained that the Dutch government's freezing of his welfare and pension allowances meant he had to live off gifts from the Philippine community and his wife's welfare cheques.

"I am poor. Nobody wants to help me financially because when they do they could be accused of helping a terrorist," he said.

Following his arrest Tuesday, the Dutch authorities searched Sison's Utrecht apartment and the residences of eight of his associates working at the international office of the National Democratic Front for the Philippines in Utrecht.

In Manila, a military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, confirmed Sison's arrest, saying it was a "triumph" of justice.

He said Sison could now be "assured of his day in court, a right denied to the thousands of victims" of communist insurgents.

An advisor to President Gloria Arroyo, Jesus Dureza, said he had heard Sison had been arrested but declined to give details.

Last March, the Philippine government asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants for Sison and other members of the CPP for their alleged role in the killing of suspected "spies and counter-revolutionaries" from 1985 to 1991.

In August last year forensic investigators covered the remains of 67 people from a communist "killing field" in the central island of Leyte.

The communists, who once had more than 20,000 armed fighters, today have fewer than 7,000 armed combatants throughout the country.

Sison maintains that he no longer leads the so-called revolutionary movement and is simply an advisor.