DFA vows fair trial for OFWs in Sabah

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said it is working to ensure that the 27 Filipinos facing terrorism charges for intruding in Lahad Datu, Sabah last year will get fair trial.

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The Filipinos were involved in a bloody clash with Malaysian forces when they occupied several areas in Sabah to renew heir claim on Sabah.

“We will continue to follow this case closely and strive to ensure fair trial for the accused Filipinos and that due process is afforded to them at all stages of the judicial proceedings,” Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said.

The Filipinos are being tried in open court in Kota Kinabalu, also part of Sabah.

The hearings were scheduled for 22 trial days from January 6 to February 21.

Citing reports from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Hernandez said the trial “has so far been devoted to the presentation of some witnesses for the prosecution.”

He added that the embassy is “proactively monitoring” the trial and has already dispatched its representatives to Kota Kinabalu to observe the proceedings.

The embassy also engaged the legal services of a “highly respected Malaysian lawyer” and six Sabah-based lawyers “to defend the Filipinos in court.”

A source told The Manila Times that the Malaysian government is keen about seeing the 27 Filipinos handed the death sentence.

The source said political tensions in the country has pushed the administration to show its citizens that it has a firm hold in ensuring the security of Malaysian territories.

About 200 followers of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram arrived in Lahad Datu, Sabah on February 9, 2013 to reclaim their “ancestral homeland.” They were led by Kiram’s brother, Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram.

The sultan died on October 20, 2013.

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