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Rights groups call for release of Filipino activist accused of being a rebel

International and local human rights groups called on the Philippine government to release a 62-year old activist who was accused of being a top leader of the communist rebel movement in Mindanao.

The groups appealed for the freedom of Teresita Naul, a council member of rights group Karapatan, who was arrested by authorities in Lanao del Norte province in March.

Naul has been tagged as a ranking leader of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Authorities said Naul was with a group of rebels who attacked government soldiers in Agusan del Sur province in December 2018.

She was arrested by virtue of warrants of arrest for her alleged crimes of “destructive arson,” kidnapping, and “serious illegal detention.”

In a statement released on July 15, rights groups Civicus, World Organization Against Torture, and Karapatan maintained that Naul was undergoing medical examination during the time of the attack.

The groups said Naul has “dedicated her life to protecting the poorest and the most marginalized” in rural communities.

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“[Naul] should never have been detained in the first place, and we call for her immediate and unconditional release,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific civic space researcher for Civicus.

Benedict said Naul’s case highlights the “increasing use of trumped up charges to silence those speaking up peacefully to exercise their freedom of expression.”

The groups claimed that Naul is suffering from asthma and bronchitis and is being detained under overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

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