Philippine court acquits Duterte critic Leila de Lima on drug charges | Drug News

De Lima was jailed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term after years of investigating drug-related killings.

A Philippine court has dismissed the last of three cases against former Senator Leila de Lima, a long-time critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his “war on drugs.”

De Lima was indicted on a range of charges in 2017 within months of the launch of a Senate investigation into Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, in which thousands of drug users and dealers have been killed by police and in mysterious circumstances.

Critics and human rights groups alleged that police summarily executed drug suspects, but police deny this and say they acted in self-defense.

President Duterte, whose term ends in 2022, has accused De Lima of colluding with drug cartels during his time as justice secretary.

“I am now completely free and proven innocent. I feel so liberated,” an emotional De Lima told reporters as she emerged from a court in southern Manila on Monday after the case against her was dismissed for lack of evidence.

“My heart is full with the amount of love being showered on me today after all my cases have been dismissed,” she wrote in X’s post.

De Lima was arrested in 2017 while still a senator and spent more than six years in prison awaiting trial on three drug trafficking charges.

She was released on bail in November last year, having previously been acquitted of two other drug charges.

The final drugs case overturned on Monday related to her period as justice minister between 2010 and 2015, and involved allegations that she accepted money from inmates at the country’s largest prison to sell drugs.

De Lima argued that the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, were trumped up to aid in drug crackdowns.

During the lengthy trial, several witnesses, including a prison gang boss, died or recanted their testimony.

The court on Monday also dismissed a separate charge that De Lima pressured a former official to ignore a 2016 subpoena issued by the House of Representatives for a hearing on illegal drug trafficking in Philippine prisons.

The case was the only criminal case against her and carried penalties ranging from fines to six months in prison.

Amnesty International in a statement welcomed the dropping of the “false charges” against De Lima, saying it came too late after “almost seven years of arbitrary detention and relentless political persecution.”

President Duterte is facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court over his anti-drug campaign, and President De Lima said on Monday that the country would continue to cooperate with the court’s investigation.

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