Church urges Philippine military to free suspected rebels | world | Hindustan Times
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Church urges Philippine military to free suspected rebels

world Updated: Apr 08, 2010 15:34 IST

The influential Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines on Thursday joined mounting calls for the army to free 43 health workers arrested on suspicion of being communist rebels.

It also hit out at the military for its "seeming lack of regard" for human rights and the rule of law.

"The illegal arrest and continued detention (of the suspects) in a military facility represent a serious threat to the civil liberties of the Filipino people," the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said.

The conference added in its statement that the continued detention of the group in a military camp may force them to make confessions under duress.

The organisation wields considerable influence in the Catholic Philippines and its statements often shape public opinion.

The military has come under severe criticism for its February arrest of the 43, in what it boasted was the biggest detention of suspected rebels in a one day raid in recent memory.

But the country's independent human rights commission later raised doubts over the legality of the arrests as relatives provided evidence that the suspects were actually health workers undergoing a training workshop.

The commission said, the suspects were denied lawyers and were being subjected to psychological torture, a claim the military has denied.

The military has defended the arrests and said, it had evidence that those detained were members of the New People's Army (NPA).

The NPA is the 5,000 strong armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969.