Saturday, June 25, 2005

Philippine Court Sentences 7 Terrorists To Death

A Philippine court sentenced to death seven suspected members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group for the kidnapping and murder of farmers on the southern island of Basilan in 2001. Six of the convicted men were present when the court in Basilan read portions of the 60-page verdict sentencing the militants to die by lethal injection. The court also ordered them to pay the families of their victims 200,000 pesos ($3,600) each. The other convicted man remains at large. "I am happy we have applied the full force of the law," said state prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron. "The agony of the victims' families was finally relieved." Dozens of soldiers and policemen guarded the small courthouse on the island, a stronghold of the small, radical Abu Sayyaf group blamed for a string of kidnappings and murders of foreign and domestic tourists in the early 2000s. "The accused and their families wept and embraced each other after the court handed down the decision," Cris Puno, a Basilan provincial official, told reporters. Puno said the sentences on Wednesday stemmed from an Abu Sayyaf raid on a farm near the town of Lamitan in August 2001. The gunmen, disguised as soldiers, abducted a group of farm workers and later beheaded nine of them. Another hostage was shot dead while two other captives escaped unhurt. The Abu Sayyaf has waged a bloody war in the country for a decade and has been blamed for a string of deadly bombings on transport systems, including the February 2004 ferry attack that killed about 100 people. In April last year, a Manila court handed down death sentences against 17 Abu Sayyaf members for the abduction of 20 tourists from a resort in Palawan in 2001. The U.S. government has the Abu Sayyaf on its blacklist of terrorist organizations.
Abu Sayyaf member