18 suspected Sayyafs cleared of role in abductions-A A +A
Thursday, February 7, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Prosecutors have sought the release of 18 suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits after an investigation showed they were erroneously arrested for involvement in the 2002 kidnappings of six people in Sulu, officials said Thursday.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) did a reinvestigation on the murder and kidnapping for ransom cases, where some of the accused said they were randomly arrested by military officers based on erroneous intelligence data.
The case is still under trial at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court branch 266 as state prosecutors will soon ask Judge Toribio Ilao Jr. to come up with a release order for these individuals who had been wrongly accused.
In a 12-page resolution, the DOJ said 13 of them should be released from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City since they were not "positively identified" by prosecution witnesses Amily Mantec and Roland Ulla.
They are Ustadz Ahmadsali Badron, Hajer Arasani, Jammal Sawaban, Robin Sahiyal, Alton Ladhalaam, Edwin Siarot Sawaldi, Mohammad Said Sali, Adzhar Nawali, Abdullan Hussih, George Nami, Abdullah Ussih, Jeheri Jeron and Manny Ismael.
"There appears to be no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group," stated the resolution signed by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
Meanwhile, lack of probable cause was the reason behind the impending release of Jumlie Orie, Jul Ahmad Ahadi, Arabi Sali, Sonny Boy Barakim and Abdulwahab Hamja.
"In every criminal prosecution, the prosecution must prove two things: 1) the commission of the crime and 2) the identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Cursory identification does not suffice to convict the accused. What is needed is positive identification made with moral certainty as to the person of the offender,” the DOJ resolution stated.
Seven prosecutors said in a joint report that the men were either mistakenly identified as Abu Sayyaf bandits, or may have been members of the al-Qaeda-linked group but played no role in the kidnappings, based on available evidence.
Membership in the Abu Sayyaf and other suspected terror groups is not outlawed in the Philippines.
At least two of the suspects have been detained for more than two years, while most others were captured last year, said Peter Ong, a prosecutor who recently carried out a new investigation after many suspects insisted on their innocence.
A judge must now approve the release of the suspects.
While the Abu Sayyaf committed the kidnappings and beheadings, "we note the indiscriminate arrests of alleged members of the ASG, even those who did not participate in the kidnappings," the prosecutors said.
ASG is an acronym for the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Two other suspects detained in connection with the kidnappings have been identified as being among the kidnappers. Those two are still being held by authorities and will face trials, the prosecutors said.
The victims, all members of the religious sect Jehovah's Witnesses, were peddling cosmetics in a community in rural Patikul town, Sulu when they were abducted in August 2002 and taken to the Abu Sayyaf's jungle encampments.
Two of the victims were beheaded by the bandits and four eventually escaped, the prosecutors said.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist organizations, has been blamed for bomb attacks, kidnapping sprees and beheadings.
The Abu Sayyaf was founded in 1991 in Basilan island with funds and training believed to come from Asian and Middle Eastern radical groups, including al-Qaeda.
It came to US attention in 2001 when it kidnapped three Americans, one of whom was beheaded, along with dozens of Filipinos. (Virgil Lopez/AP/Sunnex)