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DOJ junks criminal raps vs. Tunisian with alleged ISIS links

THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed criminal charges filed by the police and military against an alleged Islamic State militant who was captured recently in Manila.

In a seven-page resolution signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong, the DOJ dismissed charges  of illegal possession of explosive devices and firearms complaint against Tunisian national Fehmi Lassqued and his Filipina live-in partner Anabel Salipada for lack of merit.

“After a careful review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by the parties, the undersigned finds no probable cause to charge respondents for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516,” according to the DOJ resolution approved recently by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.

“Basic and well-established is the rule that the party alleging has the burden of substantiating his allegation and any declaration or assertion not so substantiated is, at best, a self-serving statement or declaration which is inadmissible in evidence for being hearsay,” it stressed.

The two were arrested in Ermita on February 16. The charge sheet signed by Superintendent Carlito Narag Jr. sought the indictment of the suspects for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516.

It cited as evidence the explosive devices seized from the couple during their arrest, including four pipes, two batteries, three capacitors, two integrated circuits, three battery clips, and 11 resistors and also the .45-caliber pistol and ammunition recovered from them. Both Lassqued and Salipada denied the allegations in separate counter-affidavits filed through the assistance of public attorneys.

In his counter-affidavit, Lassqued said contrary to the police’s claim, he was not arrested in Ermita, but in Ayala Triangle on February 16 while he was taking his cigarette break from his Spanish class.

Salipada, on the other hand, also denied owning the explosive devices and the firearm. She said when the police searched their apartment in Manila she was taken and held outside the apartment.

Ong said that among the evidence presented by the police, both the suspects and the arresting officers admitted that the five photographs of the seized items taken inside Room 409 but did not include the arresting officers and the suspects.

However, Ong noted that two other photographs which showed the suspects with the seized items were not taken inside Room 409 due “to the difference between the backgrounds of said photographs and earlier five photographs.”

“Furthermore, a perusal of the two photographs labeled as ‘Photograph of the arrested suspect and the confiscated evidence’ suggest that these pictures were taken in a place other than Room 409, since their background are different from those in the five photographs without respondent Lassoued,” Ong said.

“This supports the story of respondents that Fehmi Lassoued was not present inside Room 409, on February 16, 2018, during the implementation of SW M. 18-003, and further support Fehmi Lassoued’s story that he was later brought to an unfamiliar room with the seized articles,” he pointed out.

The prosecutor also learned that Salipada was brought by authorities to the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center on February 17 for medical examination while Lassoued was taken at the Army General Hospital in Fort Andres Bonifacio on February 18.

“Finally, the fact that both respondents underwent medical examination at two different places and on two different occasions suggests that they were arrested in separate places at different time,” he said.

On the photos of the seized explosive devices and firearms, the military and police said it was taken at the house of Lassqued and Salipada. However, the DOJ resolution noted that the background of the picture where the seized items were taken is different from the couple’s apartment.

“A perusal of the photographs suggest that these pictures were taken in a place other than [the apartment of [Lassqued and Salipada] since their background are different,” the resolution noted. (Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)


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