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10 sulu fighters acquitted

THE Malaysian high court dropped the charges against 10 of the 26 Filipinos accused of being members of a terror group and waging war against the Malaysian king, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

However, the Court found prima facie evidence against the 16 other Filipinos and were ordered to present, through their lawyers, evidence in their defense.

 One of them, identified as Totoh Bin Hismullah, who was earlier identified as a Filipino was found by the court as a Malaysian citizen. Thus only 26, and not 27 Filipinos, stand accused of being terrorists, the DFA said.

The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Judge Stephen Chung of the High Court of Kota Kinabalu ordered the 16 to present evidence in their defense “to rebut the Prosecution’s evidence.”

The court accused the Filipinos of waging war against the Malaysian king and being members of a terrorist group in connection with the Lahad Datu incident that took place in February 2013.

The Court gave the prosecution 14 days to file an appeal on the dismissal of the charges. If no appeal is filed, the 10 Filipinos, including the Malaysian national, will be released and eventually sent home.  

The determination made by the Court is only preliminary and based on the evidence presented by the prosecution. A verdict on the culpability, if any, of the 16 remaining accused will not be rendered until the defense has completed the presentation of its evidence, which is expected to begin later this month, the DFA said.

All 26 accused Filipinos were assisted and represented before and during the trial by Malaysian lawyer N. Sivananthan, whose services were arranged by the Philippine Embassy and paid for by the Philippine government.

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.

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