Malaysia files terror raps vs. 8 Filipinos
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|Muslim women and children pray during a rally held in Pasig City to call for a peaceful resolution to the worsening crisis in Sabah. Malaysian authorities on Wednesday filed charges against eight Filipinos accused of supporting followers of the Sultanate of Sulu. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN|
KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court on Wednesday charged eight Filipinos with terrorism-related offenses, punishable by death, over an incursion that has left scores dead, the national news agency said.
Malaysian security forces have been pursuing more than 200 followers of a self-proclaimed Filipino sultan, many of whom are believed to be armed, who entered Sabah state on Borneo island last month to resurrect long-dormant land claims.
Clashes between the gunmen and Malaysian forces, who launched a military attack on their hideout two weeks ago, have led to at least 70 deaths, mostly of militants.
The eight men charged are among more than 100 arrested under a security law in relation to the incursion and are the first to face the court.
They were charged with “harboring persons committing terrorist acts” and “waging of war” against the country’s king, which is punishable by a life-term imprisonment or death, Bernama news agency reported.
The men from the southern Philippines, aged between 17 and 66, did not enter pleas, it said.
They were charged in front of a judge, who came to the heavily guarded police station in Lahad Datu town, which is near palm oil estates and coastal villages where security forces are still chasing some remaining militants.
Prosecutors or other officials could not immediately be reached for further details.
Malaysian forces launched a military assault on March 5 against the group, sending them fleeing from a farming village where they had been holed up since mid-February.
The crisis has embarrassed the Philippines and Malaysia, shining the spotlight on the latter’s porous border and locals’ complaints of rampant illegal immigration and lawlessness.
A total of 800,000 Filipinos live in Sabah, making up about a quarter of the population of the state, which is just a short boat ride from the southern Philippines.