MANILA Ė A 20-year-old Spaniard arrested in the Philippines for allegedly carrying explosives and sympathizing with a local extremist group was set to plead not guilty in an affidavit, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Abdelhakim Labidi Adib, born in Madrid in 1997 to Tunisian parents, will claim he was visiting the south of the country as a tourist and is a victim of a set-up by the Philippine armed forces, his ex officio lawyer Maria Elisa Barquez told EFE in Manila.
Labidi, who is currently at a detention center in Manila, was caught by soldiers on Jan. 22 with two hand grenades and a home-made explosive in his bag in the southern island of Basilan, bastion of Abu Sayyaf, an organization affiliated to the Islamic State terror organization.
Two days later, the army handed him over to the justice department and urged the public prosecutorís office to file charges for unlawful possession of explosives, according to a confidential document accessed by EFE, in which the Spaniard is described as an Abu Sayyaf sympathizer.
Labidi, who according to his lawyer claims to be an atheist, will present his sworn declaration on Wednesday, claiming his was visiting Basilan as a tourist and the bag submitted as proof did not belong to him.
After assessing statements from both parties, a public prosecutor will decide whether to file charges against him for illegal possession of explosives, which is punishable in the Philippines with up to life imprisonment.
When he was arrested, Labidi was accompanied by a fugitive of Abu Sayyaf who managed to escape, according to the armed forces, something which the Spaniard will deny in his declaration.
Following trips to Tunisia and Morocco, Labidi arrived in Manila on Oct. 10 and spent several months in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao region, before finally moving to Basilan, which does not figure among the tourist hotspots due to extremist groups operating in the area.
The suspect, who was carrying an identity card with a Madrid address that expired in 2016, lived in Spain and France during his student years, whereas his family lives in Germany, according to sources and documents accessed by EFE.
These also revealed that more recently he had lived in Switzerland, where he had a work permit and held temporary jobs.
Spanish diplomatic authorities in the Philippines have declined to comment on the case due to its sensitive nature, although the Consulate confirmed after Labidiís arrest that it was providing assistance as per protocol.