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Teves under court custody, not arrested – lawyer

MANILA, Philippines — Expelled congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. of Negros Oriental was not rearrested as the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed, but was only placed under the custody of the court in Timor-Leste to wait for hearings concerning his extradition, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said yesterday.

Topacio earlier said Teves, the accused mastermind in the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, was released from Becora Prison in Dili.

He said Teves’ release came after the court found his detention “illegal” since the Philippines’ request for extradition “was made out of time and in a manner that is not sanctioned by practice and customary international law.”

The DOJ disputed Topacio’s claim, saying Teves’ release was “part of the country’s process” and that the former congressman was rearrested and taken into custody by the Polícia Nacional of Timor-Leste (PNTL) to stand trial for extradition.

“He was not re-arrested). This is not an arrest in the strictest sense of the word. He was placed under the custody of the court to ensure that he will be attending the (extradition) proceedings,” Topacio told journalists yesterday.

He said Teves’ release coincided with the first hearing on his extradition.

Topacio said that under Timor-Leste’s rules for extradition, the requesting state or the court may place a person subject of extradition proceedings under its custody, to ensure he or she will attend the proceedings.

“He was not rearrested for any crime. He was not rearrested for crimes he allegedly committed in the Philippines, but because of the extradition process, which is a separate civil procedure,” he said, noting Teves is not in prison, but only in a “holding area.”

Topacio chided the DOJ for calling his statements “misleading and highly irresponsible,” saying it was clearly stated in the court order that Teves was released from detention.

“It’s clear in the dispositive portion of the court order on immediate restoration of liberty to congressman Teves because there are flaws in the Philippines’ request for extradition. This concerns a (writ of) habeas corpus (right against illegal detention) case,” he said.

Topacio said Teves’ release was not