Jose Maria Sison (born February 8, 1939), also known by his nickname Joma, is a Filipino communist writer and activist who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (as well as it's military arm, the New People's Army) and added elements of Maoism to its philosophy. He applied the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism on Philippine history and current circumstances.
Since August 2002, he has been classified as a "person supporting terrorism" by the United States. The European Union's second highest court ruled in September 2009 to delist him as a "person supporting terrorism" and reversed a decision by member governments to freeze assets. He is a recognized political refugee in The Netherlands and enjoys the protection of the Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The International Crime Investigation Team of the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department arrested Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht on August 28, 2007. Sison was arrested for his alleged involvement from the Netherlands in three assassinations that took place in the Philippines: the murder of Romulo Kintanar in 2003, and the murders of Arturo Tabara and Stephen Ong in 2006. On the day of his arrest, Sison's apartment and eight apartments of his co-workers were searched by the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department.
Some 100 left-wing activists held a demonstration for the release of Sison, marching towards the Dutch embassy in Manila on August 30, 2007. The demonstration was ended by the police.
There were no plans to hold the trial in the Philippines since there was no extradition request and the crimes Jose Maria Sison is accused of were committed in the Netherlands. Dutch lawyer, Victor Koppe said that Sison would enter a plea of not guilty during his indictment. He could have faced the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
On September 1, 2007, National Democratic Front peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni confirmed that the Dutch government was "maltreating" Sison because the Court detained him in solitary confinement for several weeks without access to media, newspapers, television, radio or visitors; it also denied him the right to bring prescription medicines to his cell. The place where Sison was held was the same one used by the late former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević who was held for war crimes and corruption. Meanwhile, protests were held in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States and Canada. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) feared Sison may be "extra-judicially" transferred to the United States. CPP spokesman Gregorio Rosal said that the U.S. may detain and subject Sison to extraordinary rendition in Guantanamo Bay or some secret facility. U.S. ambassador Kristie Ann Kenney formally announced that the U.S. will extend support to the Dutch government to prosecute Sison.
In New York City, former United States Attorney General and left-wing human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark called for Sison's release and pledged assistance by joining the latter's legal defense team headed by Jan Fermon. Clark doubted Dutch authorities' validity and competency, since the murder charges originated in the Philippines and had already been dismissed by the country's Supreme Court.
Committee DEFEND, an International group stated that the Dutch government tortured Sison at the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen (used by the Nazis in World War II to torture Dutch resistance fighters). His wife, Julie De Lima failed to see him to give medicines and warm clothes on August 30, 2007. Meanwhile, counsel of Sison Romeo Capulong will question the Dutch government's jurisdiction over the issue and person alleging that the Supreme Court of the Philippines already dismissed the subject cases on July 2.
On September 7, 2007, the Dutch court heard defense arguments for Sison, and stated that it would issue the resolution next week on whether to extend the detention. Supporters outside the Hague District Court chanted slogans while the wife, Julie De Lima stated that they complained to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front accused the government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of being "a workhorse" for Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and for the U.S. government.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association in New York headed by Marjorie Cohnhas, denounced the arrest Sison: "it exposes the hand of the Arroyo administration in yet another assault on the rights of the people to dissent and organize." Sison will remain in jail until Thursday, but was provided TV, radio and medication.
On September 12, 2007, lawyers Edre Olalia and Rachel Pastores stated that Sison's lawyers will appeal the reported Dutch court's newly promulgated ruling extending Sison's detention for 90 days. The Dutch court did not extend the detention for 90 days but released him on September 13, 2007, after being in solitary confinement for 17 days.
Release from detention
Dutch public prosecutor's office's Wim de Bruin stated that Sison was released from jail at 10:45 a.m. on September 13, 2007. The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to detain him on murder charges, specifically, if Sison "had a conscious and close cooperation with those in the Philippines who carried out the deed."
On September 27, 2007, Sison appeared before the Hague Court of Appeal panel of 3 judges on the public prosecutor's appeal against the district court's September 13 judgment of release.
On September 28, 2007, the Dutch Ambassador to the Philippines, Robert Brinks, announced that 3 Dutch judicial officials and Dutch prosecution lawyer Wim De Bruin will visit the Philippines "later this year" to review the evidence against Jose Maria Sison The next day Leung Kwok Hung, a Hong Kong politician and member of the April Fifth Action vowed to support Sison. Leung was in Europe at the Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. He sits in the Hong Kong legislature as a member of the Finance and House Committees, and of the Legislative Panels on Constitutional Affairs, Housing, Manpower, Transport, and on Welfare Services.
On October 3, 2007, the Dutch court dismissed the prosecution's appeal against the release Sison, confirming his freedom while the Dutch police continue to investigate: "the prosecution file lacks enough concrete clues that Sison can be directly linked to the assassinations which is needed to prosecute him as a perpetrator". However, the decision does not bar prosecution for murder.But the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office (per spokesman Wim de Bruin) stated that it did not drop the charges against Sison yet, who remains a suspect. De Bruin said: "No, you have to separate the criminal investigation by the police from the investigation by the examining judge in The Hague. So the judge decided to finish the investigation but the police investigation will be continued and that means that Mr. Sison is still a suspect".
The Dutch court on May 20, 2008, heard Sison's appeal against the Dutch Public Prosecutors Office's request to extend its investigation until December, since the investigators arrived in the Philippines in February and interviewed witnesses. At the trial, however, the new evidence showed that there were indeed attempts to kill him, in 1999 and 2000, while Kintanar's wife, Joy, directly accused Edwin Garcia in the murder of her husband. The Dutch court scheduled the promulgation on the verdict on June 10, 2008.
The Dutch District Court of The Hague on June 5, 2008 decided in camera "that the Public Prosecution Service may continue the prosecution of Jose Maria Sison for involvement in, among other matters, a number of murders committed in the Philippines in 2003 and 2004; that while the prosecution's case file still held insufficient evidence, the investigation was ongoing and should be given time to unfold."In February 2010, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service finally terminated its investigation of Sison and dropped the criminal charges against him.