02/24/2017, 15.25
PHILIPPINES
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Duterte’s harsh critic Leila De Lima arrested

Arrested this morning on drug trafficking charges, she faces a life sentence. The senator and her supporters deny the charges, calling the case a plot by Duterte. For a decade, she has opposed the Filipino President, whom she describes as a "sociopathic serial killer".

Manila (AsiaNews) - Filipino police arrested Senator Leila de Lima, an adversary of President Rodrigo Duterte, on charges of drug trafficking. De Lima, a former human rights commissioner and justice secretary, could be jailed for life.

The senator and her supporters strongly reject the allegations and claim that she the victim of a plot orchestrated by the Filipino president to silence or intimidate anyone who criticises his actions and his brutal war on drugs that has killed more than 7,000 people since it began eight months ago, when he took office.

Leila De Lima was formally arrested this morning after an overnight vigil at her office under police surveillance.

“It is my honour to be imprisoned for the things I am fighting for. Please pray for me,” De Lima told reporters outside her Senate office.

“As I have been saying all along, I am innocent,” she insisted. “There is no truth to the charges I benefited from the drug trade, that I received money and that I coddled drug convicts.”

“The truth will come out at the right time. They will not be able to silence me and stop me from fighting for the truth and justice and against the daily killings and repression by the Duterte regime.”

On Tuesday, the senator branded Duterte a “sociopathic serial killer” as she called for ordinary Filipinos to stand up in opposition to his drug war.

The arrest marks the peak of De Lima’s decade-long campaign to expose Duterte as the leader of death squads during his time as mayor of the southern city of Davao, and then as president.

Duterte first raised allegations in August that De Lima had been running a drug trafficking ring with criminals inside the nation’s biggest prison when she was the justice secretary in the previous government. Since then, the president has pursued a personal campaign to discredit her opponent.

De Lima was charged last week with three counts of drug trafficking, and an arrest warrant was issued yesterday afternoon.

De Lima initially avoided police by seeking refuge in the Senate. She slept in her office overnight, then gave herself up to armed police this morning.

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