Philippines restores massacre charges for clansmen

The Philippines justice department reversed a controversial decision to clear two members of a powerful political clan of involvement in the massacre.

Philippines restores massacre charges for clansmen

The Philippines justice department on Wednesday reversed a controversial decision to clear two members of a powerful political clan of involvement in the massacre of 57 people in the south of the country last year.

Alberto Agra, acting secretary of the Department of Justice, told reporters he had changed his mid-April decision after assessing new evidence against Zaldy Ampatuan, former governor of Autonomous Region in Mindanao, and his uncle Akmad.

"I granted the motion for reconsideration based on additional witnesses and testimonies, as well as arguments presented by their lawyers," Agra told reporters.

"I am now convinced that there is probable cause insofar as Zaldy and Akmad are concerned."

A fresh witness had testified he saw Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan at a meeting in the mansion of the clan's patriarch where the massacre was planned. Agra had earlier said Zaldy Ampatuan had a credible alibi while there were no witnesses against Akmad.

That whipped up a political storm, as the clan is allied to the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. State prosecutors criticised the decision and families of the massacre victims called for his resignation.

Andal Ampatuan Sr, his brother and four children are being held at a maximum security detention facility in a police base in Manila while awaiting trial on 57 counts of murder.

Last November, seven members of a rival clan, 20 civilians and 30 journalists were killed by about 100 armed men in Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao.

They had been on their way to witness the filing of nomination papers of a candidate preparing to stand against the main suspect, Andal Ampatuan Jr, for a local position in elections that will be held on May 10.

The deaths heightened the Philippines' profile as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists and stoked tensions ahead of the national and local polls.


Reuters

Last Mod: 05 Mayıs 2010, 13:14
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