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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Timor Leste Court of Appeals ends extradition hearing on Teves

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THE Court of Appeals of Timor-Leste has wrapped up its hearing on the extradition request made by the Philippine government involving fugitive former Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves, Jr. who has been facing multiple murder charges for the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and at least eight others on March 4, 2023.

In a statement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that both parties were given time to submit their respective position papers embodying their arguments and stance on the petition.

“Submission is sequential, not simultaneous.  Timor Leste Central Authority will have to submit first its Memorandum/Position Paper followed by Teves camp,” the DOJ clarified.

The DOJ said the Timor Leste Court of Appeals will subsequently have five days to render its decision. 

The Philippine government expected that a decision will come by end-June. 

“The DOJ is optimistic that a favorable decision will be made by the Court of Appeals, particularly as our witnesses were able to effectively counter the arguments raised by the camp of Teves,” the DOJ stressed.

Last week, the appellate court placed Teves under house arrest after it deemed he could be a flight risk.

The appeals court issued a “Warrant Of Conduct Under House Arrest” against Teves after finding that he has the financial capability to flee the country.

The DOJ confirmed that the Teves was indeed placed under house arrest, citing information provided by the Prosecutor General Office of Timor-Leste.

“He will be under 24-hour security with only family members permitted to visit him,” the DOJ said.

“The government will maintain close oversight of the situation to ensure that all procedures are both valid and appropriate,” the DOJ added.

“As regardless of whether he is in custody, rearrested, or house arrest, he is under the control of the police authorities. Simply put, he is deprived of liberty,” Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said.

Teves legal counsel, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, simply described Teves’ situation as “no longer in jail.”

The court noted that Teves was facing multiple murder charges in the Philippines and that he came to Timor-Leste by private plane in April 2023.

It said that Teves lives with his wife and two children in a house rented at $10,000 a month, and has more than 20 employees, 10 of which were Filipino and 10 Timorese.

The court also noted that he is working as a partner of a construction firm whose owner gave him financial support. 

“Given the facts above, it is concluded that the risk of flight persists for the extraditee, especially since he has the financial means to leave Timor-Leste,” the Court stressed.

According to the Court, flight risk is mitigated by applying the Coercive Measure of house arrest as provided by Timorese law.

I order… the arrested individual below named is to be taken to House Arrest at his residence to await further extradition proceedings, the court ruling stated.

The appeals court also found Teves’ detention to be valid as it was carried out following a detention warrant issued by a judge.

Teves has denied accusations he had a hand in the killing of Degamo and at least eight innocent bystanders.

He was arrested in Dili, Timor Leste while playing golf based on INTERPOL red notice issued against him in February.

Aside from the murder of Degamo, Teves and others have also been charged with the deaths of three individuals in Negros Oriental in 2019. He also denied involvement in those charges.

Teves and 12 others have also been designated as terrorists by the Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Council, citing several alleged killings and harassment in Negros Oriental.

In early February, a Manila Court ordered the cancellation of his passport.

The legislator was expelled by the House of Representatives in August last year for disorderly conduct and continued absence despite an expired travel authority.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline Timor-Leste appeals court concludes Teves extradition hearing — DOJ

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