Monday, August 01, 2011

Army soldiers arrested on torture charges in the Philippines

Photos released by the human rights group Mindanao Anti-Torture Alliance show torture victim Abdul Khan Ajid in an undisclosed hospital in the southern Philippines.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug.1, 2011) – Four army rangers have been arrested in connection with the torture of a Muslim man they accused as member of the militant group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, official said Monday.

Officials said the soldiers, including an officer, are now in custody of the Judge Advocate General’s Office of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and had been relieved of their duties in Basilan province.

They were accused of torturing Abdul Khan Ajid into admitting that he is member of the Abu Sayyaf, blamed by the military for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

“We have three army soldiers under custody in connection with the torture of Ajid. They are no under the custody of the JAGO and have been relieved of all their duties pending the filing of appropriate charges against them,” Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.

General Raymundo Ferrer, a regional military commander, also condemned the torture and said the military will take appropriate actions against the soldiers accused of pouring gasoline on Ajid’s face and body and setting him on fire to extract confession.

Ajid, who runs a bakery in Sumisip town, was arrested July 23 on suspicion he is an Abu Sayyaf militant, and interrogated by the army in Basilan for four days.

His sister Haniba Mussadam said the soldiers also inserted a soft drink bottle full of gasoline into his anus. Ajid was only handed to prison officials on July 27 after his family filed a petition for writ of amparo with the local court.

Ajid, who is now fighting for his life, was brought to hospital in Zamboanga City on July 31 after his family secured a court order.

Ajid’s family denied all accusations against him and is seeking justice for the 39-year old baker.

Army Colonel Domingo Tutaan, the head of the human rights office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the soldiers would have to answer all criminal charges against them.

“The investigation is still going on and they could face court martial proceedings under the military justice system. We will not condone this inhumane act of torture of innocent civilians,” Tutaan said in a separate interview.

“Anybody involved in this torture regardless of their ranks, units and position will be dealt severely if they are found guilty. We will look into their culpability and the actions we are going to take against them depend on the outcome of the investigation. There will be due process in this investigation,” he said.

The victim’s family said the soldiers had mistaken Ajid for Kanneh Malikil, who was the subject of a local arrest warrant. Soldiers were also spotted near the family’s house and were believed to be spying on them.

The Commission on Human Rights in Zamboanga City said it is also investigating the torture.

A Filipino regional human rights group called Mindanao Anti-Torture Alliance, has condemned the torture of Ajid.

“As advocates of human rights in this part of the country, we strongly condemn all acts of torture no matter who committed them. The people who are responsible for these horrible deeds must be punished,” it said.
(Mindanao Examiner)

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