Activist cleared of last drugs charge

A court dropped the last remaining illegal drugs charge against human rights campaigner Leila de Lima (pic), her lawyer said.

The ruling ends a series of cases termed “bogus” by human rights groups targeting de Lima, one of the most vocal and powerful critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war.

De Lima’s lawyer Filibon Tacardon texted reporters from the Manila courtroom yesterday saying a judge had ruled in favour of her motion seeking the case be dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

The 64-year-old former senator and former justice minister was arrested in 2017 and spent more than six years in jail while on trial for three drug trafficking charges.

She described the cases as payback for her efforts to investigate Duterte’s drug war.

De Lima was freed on bail in November last year, while the two other drug charges were dropped.

The last charge concerned allegations she took money from inmates inside the country’s largest prison to allow them to sell drugs while she was justice minister from 2010-2015.

She had maintained that the charges, which carried a maximum penalty of life in prison, were fabricated to silence her from criticising Duterte’s narcotics crackdown that left thousands dead.

Multiple witnesses, including prison gang bosses, died or recanted their testimonies during the lengthy trials.

Before her arrest, de Lima had spent a decade investigating “death squad” killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as mayor of the southern city of Davao and early in his 2016-2022 presidency. — AFP

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