Malaysia court finds evidence vs. 16 Pinoys in 2013 Lahad Datu standoff
A Malaysian high court on Friday found prima facie evidence against 16 of the 27 Filipinos accused in connection with the Lahad Datu standoff in February 2013, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a news release, the DFA said Judge Stephen Chung of theHigh Court of Kota Kinabalu ordered the 16, through their legal counsel, to present evidence in their defense "to rebut the Prosecution's evidence."
"The determination made by the Court is only preliminary and was based on the evidence presented by the Prosecution," the DFA noted.
It added that a verdict on the culpability, if any, of the 16 will not be rendered until the defense has completed the presentation of its evidence, which is expected to begin later this month.
Meanwhile, charges against the remaining 11 were dropped due to lack of evidence.
If the prosecution will not appeal in 14 days, 10 of the 11 will be released and eventually sent home, the DFA said.
"One of the 11, Totoh bin Hismullah may remain in Malaysia as he had been found by the Court to be a Malaysian citizen and no longer a Filipino," it added.
The 27 were accused of waging war against the Malaysian King and being a member of a terrorist group.
They were part of a group of over 200 Filipinos, many of them armed, who arrived in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia, in February 2013 to assert the country's territorial claim to the eastern part of the island.
The group, which came from Tawi-Tawi and was sent by the late Jamalul Kiram III, one of the claimants to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu, engaged Malaysian security forces in a standoff that lasted for days.
Over a dozen people were killed when the standoff erupted into violence.
The DFA said all the 27 accused Filipinos were "ably assisted and represented before and during the trial by a highly-qualified Malaysian lawyer, Datuk N. Sivananthan, whose services were arranged by the Philippine Embassy and paid for by the Philippine government."
"An Embassy representative was present at today’s hearing," it said, adding the accused were also visited regularly by embassy officers and personnel.
"The Philippine Embassy will continue to extend all appropriate assistance to the accused Filipino nationals," the DFA said. —KBK, GMA News