Malaysia sentences 9 Filipinos to death over 2013 Lahad Datu siege

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A Malaysian soldier fires on a position held by Filipinos involved in the 2013 incursion into Sabah in an attempt to reclaim the territory for the sultanate of Sulu. (Reuters/Malaysia's Ministry of Defense/Handout)

MANILA, Philippines — Nine Filipinos have been sentenced to death by Malaysia’s Court of Appeal for their roles in the 2013 Lahad Datu incident.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the sentences, first reported by Malaysian news sites, and said it would seek reconsideration.

“Our Malaysia embassy team (is) meeting immediately with embassy lawyers to move for possible reconsideration of the verdict,” said Office of Migrant Workers Affairs executive director Raul Dado.

He said “diplomatic initiatives will begin immediately” in Manila and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s news agency Bernama identified the death convicts as Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, 54, the son of the late self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram; Julham Rashid, 70; Virgilio Nemar Patulada, alias Mohamad Alam Patulada, 53; Salib Akhmad Emali, 64; Tani Lahad Dahi, 64; Basad H. Manuel, 42; Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, 46; Al-Wazir Osman, 62, and Ismail Yasin, 77.

The nine were part of an armed force of more than 200 that landed in Sabah and battled Malaysian security forces for more than a month in early 2013 in a bid to reclaim the territory for the sultanate of Sulu. Scores died in the fighting.

They had earlier been found guilty of “waging war against the king” — Malaysia’s head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong — and handed down life sentences by the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak but the Court of Appeal replaced this with death.

Bernama reported that the decision of the three-man Court of Appeal to hand down the death sentence was unanimous.

The news agency quoted Justice Datuk Setia Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who chaired the panel, as saying: “The route from the Philippines to Sabah, the landing site at Kampung Tanduo, the different targets at Sabah were all predetermined.”

“The local kampong folks were forced to leave their homes because of the intrusion. Heavy lethal weapons such as M-16 rifles, 9mm pistols and grenades were used during the intrusion,” the Justice said.

“There were negotiations between the Malaysian security forces and the armed group at Kampung Tanduo, but the negotiations failed. The intruders chose not to leave Sabah, but instead they chose bloodshed and war,” he added.

Bernama said the nine convicts, garbed in green prison clothes, “showed no emotion when the verdict was delivered.”

Thirteen other Filipinos were acquitted of various crimes related to treason and terrorism.

The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur said the Court of Appeal’s decision is not final and will head to Malaysia’s Supreme Court, the Federal Court of Malaysia, on automatic appeal.

The DFA said the government “has extended legal and other forms of assistance to all the defendants from the trial stage of their case up to the appeal, and will continue to extend assistance to them as their case progresses.”