Philippines refuses to free 2 top communist rebels

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Updated: Sun, 23 Mar 2014 03:15:16 EST

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines says it will not release two captured top leaders of a violent communist rebel group fighting to overthrow the government.

Communist rebels have demanded the release of Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria. They were captured in central Cebu province on Saturday.

The rebels condemned the arrests, saying the two were consultants in stalled peace talks who were granted temporary immunity from arrests under an accord with the government.

Government peace negotiators said Sunday they could not verify if Tiamzon, who uses a rebel alias, is on a list of rebels who were given immunity. They say his wife is ineligible for immunity because she escaped from jail in 1989.

Washington has blacklisted the insurgent group, which has 4,000 fighters, as a terrorist organization.

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