: Nine of the accused in the Lahad Datu intrusion case who were found guilty of waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong escaped the gallows when they were sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court here today.
Judge Stephen Chung meted out the sentence on Filipinos 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 capital punishment for the offence under Section 121 of the Penal Code was death.
In his judgment, Chung said there was no evidence that the accused were directly involved in the skirmishes that occurred during the intrusion, nor was there proof that they had killed any member of the security force in cold blood or injured anybody.
He noted that the key persons in the intrusion, such as Datu Agbimuddin Kiram and 'General Musa' were not brought to justice.
"It is indeed an odious task to pass the appropriate sentence for the accused convicted under Section 121 of the Penal Code.
"The offence had badly affected the lives of the residents of Kampung Tanduo and those who resided in the nearby villages, as well as the families of the deceased security personnel," he said.
Chung also sentenced Salib Akhmad, Al Wazir, Tani, Julham and Datu Amir Bahar to 18 years' jail each on a second charge of being members of a terrorist group, while the other four – Atik Hussin, Basad, Ismail and Virgilio – who pleaded guilty to the same offence each received 13 years imprisonment.
They were ordered to serve the jail sentences concurrently from their date of arrest.
Also convicted of being members of a terrorist group were Timhar Hadil, 39 and a local, Abd Hadi Mawan, 52, and they were sentenced to 15 years' jail each to be served from the date of their arrest.
Chung said he considered the guilty plea of Filipinos Lin Mad Salleh, 50; Holland Kalbi, 50; and Aiman Radie, 20 for the same offence and sentenced them to 13 years' jail each, to be served from the date of their arrest.
The offence of being a member of a terrorist group is framed under Section 130KA of the Penal Code which provides an imprisonment for life upon conviction.
Two other locals in the case who pleaded guilty to amended charges were each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment from the date of their arrest.
One of them, Pabblo Alie, 66 had pleaded guilty to soliciting property for the benefit of a terrorist group or for the commission of a terrorist act, an offence under Section 130G (c) of the Penal Code, which carries the maximum
30-year imprisonment upon conviction.
The other, Mohammad Ali Ahmad, 41 had also pleaded guilty to soliciting or giving support to a terrorist group, an offence under Section 130J (1) (a) of the Penal Code, which also carries the maximum 30-year imprisonment upon conviction.
Meanwhile, the sole woman in the case, Filipina Norhaida Ibnahi, 49, was sentenced to 10 years in jail, from the date of arrest, for harbouring a person she knew was a member of a terrorist group.
The maximum sentence for the offence under Section 130K of the Penal Code is life imprisonment.
Counsel for the Filipinos, Datuk N. Sivananthan expressed gratitude to the court that his clients were spared the death sentence.
He told the court that he would be making an application to appeal against the sentences and convictions of his clients.
In mitigation, he urged the court to consider the roles his clients played in the case and pointed out that there was no evidence that his clients were righthand men of the masterminds, Datu Agbimuddin and 'General Musa', in the terrorist act.
One of Mohammad Ali's counsel, Ram Singh said he would appeal against the sentence meted on his client, while Abd Hadi's counsel, Abdul Gani Zelika said he has yet to get instruction from his client whether or not to appeal against the
conviction and sentence.
Pabblo is represented by lawyer Putli Noor Asikin Datu Gulam, who said she would not appeal against the sentence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, who prosecuted, told the court that the prosecution intended to appeal against the decision of the court on the 11 accused who were acquitted and discharged in the case.
Earlier, he urged the court to consider public interest when handing out the sentence, stating that the interest of the accused should not override public interest and security.
"The act of terrorism is now a transnational phenomenon and a challenge to civilised nations. It is a global threat.
"We (prosecution) submit that Your Lordship should draw a line between an offence that is considered ordinary and not ordinary in meting out the appropriate sentence," he said.
Mohd Dusuki also said a maximum sentence would not only deter future wrongdoers from committing the offence, but it would also show the court's seriousness in dealing with the offence.
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 between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.
The prosecution had called 166 witnesses over 239 days of proceeding 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.
One of the accused Filipino Hadil Suhaili, 68, who was constantly ill with severe breathing problems throughout the trial, died on April 23 while in detention.
Yesterday, Chung said conviction for Hadil, who was charged with being a member of a terrorist group, would not be recorded due to his demise.