Human Rights Activist Claims He Was Given Weapons And Tortured
(by Dave Brooksher) – A human rights activist who was attempting to visit the U.S. from
the Philippines last week claims he was supplied with weapons and tortured by
federal agents during a 28-hour detention at San Francisco International
Jerome Aladdin Aba arrived at SFO around 8 p.m. last Tuesday, but
was detained for questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents due
to unspecified problems with his visa. He was eventually denied entry, and
was placed on a departing flight to Manila around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
In a subsequent news conference, Aba said he was forced to strip
naked in an air-conditioned room and stand in front of a large fan during a
Aba claims he was questioned extensively about his political
beliefs and President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial drug war, which has
been condemned by human rights activists who say that thousands have died in
the ensuing civil unrest.
President Donald Trump has praised Duterte’s actions, saying his
Filipino counterpart has done an unbelievable job combating illicit drugs,
according to an article by the New York Times last May. This was one of the
human rights issues Aba was visiting the U.S. to discuss.
One of his interrogating officers, identified only as Lopez,
repeatedly touched a handgun he was wearing and said he would “not hesitate
to shoot,” Aba said.
While in detention, Aba said he was left alone with a gun and
later a hand grenade in an apparent attempt to tempt him into using the
weapons. He has speculated that this may have been an effort to portray him
as a suicide bomber.
Before authorizing his release, Aba claims he was coerced into
signing a blank document. He included the letters U.P. to indicate that he
did so under pressure or duress, but federal agents reportedly made him sign
another one and then forced him to record a video statement saying that he
hadn’t been tortured.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said today in a
statement that the agency is aware of the allegations, but claimed they are
Customs officials say he was not asked to remove his clothing.
Their officers would never give Aba access to a weapon he could potentially
use against them, and their airport personnel don’t have hand grenades.
Among other forms of mistreatment, Aba said he informed customs
officials that he could not eat pork due to his religious beliefs as a
Muslim, and they responded by offering him a ham sandwich after depriving him
of food for 24 hours.
Agency officials said Aba was kept in a “lounge” area with
reclining chairs and blankets where he had access to food, water and bathroom
They refuted Aba’s claims about the ham sandwich, saying that
while he was in custody they provided an egg and cheese sandwich as well as a
turkey and cheese sandwich. He was also offered noodles, but declined.
“No pork was provided and no religious discrimination took place,”
a CBP spokesman said in a statement.
Aba and his colleagues with the International Coalition for Human
Rights in the Philippines have called on U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein and House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to condemn the alleged actions
of the customs agents involved in Aba’s case.
Their offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment
on the matter.