Gov’t willing to let Misuari travel to Saudi–prosecution

By DJ Yap
Last updated 05:39pm (Mla time) 07/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The government is willing to allow detained Moro leader Nur Misuari to travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the upcoming tripartite peace talks in mid-July.


The panel of lawyers prosecuting Misuari for rebellion told a Makati court on Thursday they had no objections to his motion for travel leave subject to certain conditions.


“My going to Jeddah is already a foregone conclusion. We’re going to proceed and it’s only a question of our embarkation dates,” Misuari said in an interview after the hearing.


But one of the defense lawyers, Salvador Panelo, later said this was not a sure thing yet. “Let me correct that. It’s still discretionary on the part of the judge,” he said.


In its three-page comment on Misuari’s motion, the prosecution told Judge Winlove Dumayas of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 that it was amenable to the idea of granting Misuari leave for the scheduled talks.


But the panel led by Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Leah Tanodra-Armamento and State Prosecutor Romeo Senson said the court should impose requirements, such as the deployment of sufficient security, and strict compliance with the itinerary.


Misuari is expected to lead the delegation of the Moro National Liberation Front at the negotiation table with the government peace panel and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.


The Moro leader, who is under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City, said there was some confusion on the matter of the dates.


In their comment, the government lawyers said the tripartite meeting was on July 17-19, and not July 10-15 as originally agreed upon.


Misuari said that as far as he was concerned, the original dates stand.


The other requirements the prosecution sought were the following:


• The travel shall be for the purpose of attending the meeting and “not for any other political purpose;”


• The accused shall immediately return to his place of detention after the meetings;


• The lawyers shall guarantee Misuari’s compliance with the court order;


• They will depart only after the submission by either the prosecution or the accused of the sovereign guaranty from Saudi Arabia assuring compliance with the order.


Senson said it was now up to Dumayas to decide whether to allow Misuari to leave for Jeddah.


“Before we made our comment, we consulted the Opapp [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process]. So in effect, our position is he can go. But of course, the judge will be the one to decide that,” he told reporters.


Misuari said the peace talks should go a long way in helping resolve the conflict in the South.


“There has been a big problem in our region, particularly on the island of Jolo. We’re engaging in a continuing war, but always in the exercise of self-defense. We’re always at the receiving end,” he said.


With the talks, he said, “We can resume our march toward peace in Mindanao.”


In his motion filed on June 29, Misuari asked to be allowed to leave with his spiritual adviser and co-accused Ustadz Usman on July 8 or 9.


The motion said Misuari was an “indispensable party to the tripartite meeting, or at the very least, his personal attendance will be conducive to a fruitful income.”


Misuari also sought permission to be allowed to go on “umra,” a lesser pilgrimage to the “hajj,” at Mecca, and have an audience with Saudi’s King Abdullah at his Royal Palace in Riyadh.


On Monday, Misuari filed through his lawyer Arthur Lim, a manifestation saying Misuari and Usman “shall consider themselves totally subject to the ultimate authority of the Honorable Court.”


“They shall obey at all times the orders of the Honorable Court as may be conveyed or implemented by their police escorts or traveling companions as the court may direct,” he said.


“They shall not make or deliver political speeches or otherwise engage in partisan effort or activity that may undermine the interest, integrity or sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.


Misuari is facing a rebellion charge in connection with an uprising by his followers in Jolo, Sulu in November 2000, and has been under house arrest since mid-2006.


In the last elections, Misuari ran but lost in the Sulu gubernatorial race.


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