Political prisoners stage hunger strike

Political prisoners around the country started a four-day hunger strike today to demand their immediate release.

The action also aims to get supporters, relatives and friends to stage protests outside prisons, the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, or Karapatan, said in a statement.

There are presently 354 political prisoners in 63 detention and prison facilities throughout the country. At least 80 of them were arrested during the term of the present government it said.

It believes the vast majority of them are in jail on trumped up charges.

In a show of solidarity with the hunger-strikers, former political prisoners and human rights organizations staged a demonstration outside the national police headquarters in Manila today.

After one year in office “nothing has been done to address the illegal arrest, torture and detention of political prisoners,” said Angie Ipong, a former political prisoner.

“We hope [President Benigno Aquino] will remember the pain of being a child of a political prisoner and grant their demand at soon as possible,” said Cristina Guevarra, general-secretary of the rights group Hustisya (Justice).

Aquino’s late father, Benigno Aquino Jr, was imprisoned during the martial law years in the 1970s.

Aquino “should show that it is not his administration’s policy to affect the arrest and incarceration of those who express political dissent,” Guevarra said.

“Families of political prisoners want freedom for their relatives because they are not criminals. Upholding a political belief is never a crime,” she added.

Meanwhile, international rights group Human Rights Watch this week released a report criticizing the lack of action by the Aquino government in tackling rights abuses.

“Activists are being gunned down in the street, while implicated soldiers walk free,” said Elaine Pearson, the group’s deputy Asia director.

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