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‘We can’t defend you’ – Lawyers tell De Lima

Manila: Three lawyers who were to defend Senator Leila de Lima in court as she stands trial against drug-related charges, say they can no longer defend her in court.

The lawyers did not give reasons for their sudden withdrawal from the case but we are reliably informed that the lawyers have given up the case for fear of their lives.

The staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, has been charged for allegedly receiving money from drug dealers inside the country’s prisons.

De Lima says “the charges are politically motivated”.

More than 7700 people have been killed in the narcotics crackdown since Duterte took office on June 30, about 2500 in police operations, while the rest are being investigated.

Human rights groups believe many other deaths that police attributed to vigilantes were carried out by assassins likely colluding with police. The government and police vehemently deny extrajudicial killings have taken place.

Senator Leila de Lima, her former driver, two bodyguards and a former national prison official face arrest next week once a court has issued arrest warrants, Justice Minister Vitaliano Aguirre told a news conference.

“These are non-bailable offences under the country’s anti-drug laws,” Aguirre said, adding that a guilty verdict would bring a penalty of life imprisonment. “These are not the product of politics, the cases were carefully studied.”

According to information filed at the Muntinlupa trial court in the south of Manila, the capital, de Lima received 5 million pesos ($A130,000) delivered to her home when she was justice minister in the years 2010 to 2016.

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