KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here yesterday found 13 of the 14 accused in the 2013 Lahad Datu intrusion case guilty as charged.
Nine of them were found guilty of waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which carries the death sentence or life imprisonment and a fine on conviction.
They were Philippine nationals Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, 45; Basad H. Manuel, 41; Ismail Yasin, 76; Virgilio Nemar Patulada alias Mohammad Alam Patulada, 52; Salib Akhmad Emali, 63; Al Wazir Osman, 61; Tani Lahaddahi, 63; Julham Rashid, 69, and Datu Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, 53, the son of so-called Sultan Esmail Kiram.
Justice Stephen Chung is expected to pass sentence on the 13 after hearing their “plea in mitigation” today.
He is also expected to pass sentence on some of the individuals who had pleaded guilty in February this year.
Datu Amir Bahar, Salib Akhmad, Al Wazir, Tani and Julham were also found guilty and convicted of a second offence of being a member of a terrorist group, which carries life imprisonment and fine.
Also found guilty of being a member of a terrorist group are local Abd Hadi Mawan, 52; Philippine national Timhar Hadil, 39, and his deceased father Hadil Suhaili, 68, who died on April 24 while in detention.
The sole woman accused, Philippine national Norhaida Ibnahi, was found guilty of harbouring a person whom she knew was a member of a terrorist group, an offence punishable with life imprisonment and fine, or 20 years’ imprisonment with fine or both.
In his judgment, Chung said the defence had failed to raise beyond a reasonable doubt the prosecution’s case against the 13 convicts.
Despite Datu Amir Bahar’s claims that there were misunderstandings between his father and his uncle Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the intrusion in Kampung Tanduo, Chung said there was evidence that Datu Amir Bahar was in continuous communication with his uncle.
“Based on communication interceptions, he was in contact (with his uncle) during the skirmish at Kampung Simunul (in Semporna).
“There was (also) cogent evidence of his involvement as ‘Chief of Staff’ of the ‘Royal Security Force’,” he said.
Chung also said communication interceptions carried out by the police on Salib Akhmad and Al Wazir also showed evidence that they were in communication with the intrusion leader.
The judge said a prosecution witness, who was given protection, had identified Tani, Julham and Abd Hadi as members of the ‘Royal Sulu Force’ and whose testimony was not challenged by the defence.
On Atik Hussin, Basad, Ismail and Virgilio, Chung said their confession that they were cheated into coming to Sabah for work was doubtful.
After the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, the judge said they decided to plead guilty on a second charge of being members of a terrorist group, which contradicted with their confessions.
“If they had felt cheated (of a promise of a job in Sabah), they had ample time to escape (Kampung Tanduo). But they only ran away after the skirmishes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chung questioned Hadil and Timhar’s presence in Lahad Datu during the time of the intrusion with possessing documents related to the ‘Sulu sultanate’.
He said there was no proof that the ‘son’ he visited, which was the reason for his presence in Lahad Datu, was his actual son, who did not bear the same last name as Timhar.
The judge said Hadi had also been identified as a member of the ‘Royal Sulu Force’ by a prosecution witness, whose testimony was not challenged by the defence, while Norhaida claimed not using her handphone when Special Branch officers tracked her down by tracking the signals of her handphone.
Chung did not find Filipino Basil Samiul, 35, guilty of supporting and soliciting a terrorist group, as charged.
The judge found no evidence to conclude that Basil was at Kampung Tanduo during the intrusion despite sharing the same first name as an intruder at the village.
“There was insufficient evidence against the 24th accused (Basil) in the communication interception and he was never identified as Basil bin Samiul.
“It is apparent that ‘Al Basil’, who could run when chased by a person with a gun was not the 42th accused who was limping throughout the trial,” he said.
Chung acquitted and discharged Basil and ordered him to be referred to the Immigration Department.
The prosecution began its case on Jan 6, 2014 with 30 individuals comprising 27 Filipinos and three local men, accused of various offences linked to the armed intrusion at Kampung Tanduo.
The prosecution had called 166 witnesses over 239 days of proceedings which ended on Jan 5 this year.
On Feb 5, Chung ordered 19 of the 30 accused to enter their defence after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case.
However, on Feb 23 and Feb 24, nine of the 19, including two locals, chose to plead guilty, but the judge reserved sentencing pending conclusion of the defence’s case.
Four of the nine faced two charges each – waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and being members of a terrorist group. But they only pleaded guilty to the latter charge.
Twenty witnesses were called during the staggered defence trial lasting 24 days between Feb 25 and May 17.