March 7, 2018 / 10:18 AM / 17 days ago

Philippines frees Egyptian after flaws found in firearms case

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has freed an Egyptian and his Philippine partner accused of links with pro-Islamic State militants, after prosecutors determined police might have fabricated the case.

Egyptian national Fehmi Lassoued is presented to members of the media after being arrested allegedly in possession of assorted explosives and bomb-making paraphernalia during a press conference at the Philippine National Police general headquarters in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/Files

Fehmi Lassoued and girlfriend Anabel Salipada were arrested last month in a apartment a few blocks away from the U.S. embassy in Manila. Police said guns, ammunition and bomb-making materials were found there.

Police presented the couple to the media on Feb. 19 and said a “thorough investigation” was underway to establish the extent of their militant ties.

A police spokesman on Wednesday declined to comment on the case dismissal until provided with a copy of the prosecutor’s decision.

The prosecutor said the gun and explosives possession charges were weak and possibly fabricated, and the gun submitted as evidence was a replica.

Lassoued and Salipada were not in a police photograph of the guns and explosives either, according to the prosecutor.

Pictures provided by police appeared to have been taken in a room that was not the one rented by Lassoued, the prosecutor said in a statement, supporting the Egyptian’s account that he was not present for the raid, and was brought to an unfamiliar room containing explosives.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty

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