Hands off Thomas!

This first appeared at Bayan.

We strongly denounce the detention of Dutch activist Thomas van Beersum by the Bureau of Immigration. Thomas was prevented from boarding his flight this morning and is being held by Immigration officials at the NAIA. Thomas was already leaving the Philippines and we see no reason to detain him. This is plain harassment in light of the many threats issued by the BI against Thomas during the past two weeks. It is ridiculous that a person already set to leave the country will be detained only to be eventually deported. However, this is not the first time this has happened as other foreign activists have also been held before by Immigration officials only to be deported and then blacklisted.

Immigration officials have also told media that van Beersum is "overstaying" in the Philippines. If true, then he should just have been made to pay the corresponding fine instead of being detained. The whole thing is just political harassment and is meant to send a message to other foreign activists showing solidarity with the Philippines.

As of this posting, Thomas' lawyer Atty. Rey Cortez from the National Union of People's Lawyers has not been allowed to access his client at the airport.

Thomas was in the Philippines to visit different people's organizations and show solidarity with their struggles. He has also supported the campaign for justice for Dutch development worker Wilem Geertman who was killed in Pampanga last year. Though a citizen of the Netherlands, he has embraced the struggle of the Filipino people and is aware of the many issues confronting the Philippines.

We demand the immediate release of Thomas van Beersum and his safe passage back to the Netherlands. We demand that his rights be respected, including his right to counsel. We demand that he not be paraded like some criminal even as no charges have been brought against him.

We demand that the Aquino regime stop its harassment of foreign activists showing solidarity with the struggles of the Filipino people. The detention comes in the wake of a successful International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines. More than a hundred human rights defenders from abroad in fact joined the State of the Nation Address protests to show support for the Filipino people's struggle. Prior to SONA, the ICHRPP was subjected to heavy surveillance by state security forces, two of whom were apprehended during the conference itself.

We ask the international community, including the European Union the Netherlands government to speak out against the repressive actions of the Aquino government.

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