THE PHILIPPINES. COURT SENTENCES SEVEN MILITANTS TO DEATH
June 22, 2005: 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 remained 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 stemmed from an Abu Sayyaf raid on a farm near the town of Lamitan in August 2001. The gunmen, disguised as soldiers, had abducted a group of farm workers and later beheaded nine of them. Another hostage had been shot dead while two other captives escaped unhurt. (Sources: Reuters, 22/06/2005)