The High Court of Kota Kinabalu acquitted 11 Filipinos accused of waging war against Malaysia for lack of evidence.
However, 16 others were ordered to present evidence in their defense.
The Filipinos were also accused of being members of a terrorist group, supporting acts of terrorists and soliciting property as commission for terrorist acts. The criminal charges were filed following their arrest in Lahad Datu. The men, part of a group that claimed to be members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu, sailed to Borneo in 2013 and engaged security officials there in a standoff that lasted days.
In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Judge Stephen Chung found no prima facie evidence against the 11 accused and ordered the dropping of the charges against them.
The court gave the prosecution 14 days to file an appeal on the dismissal of the charges. If no appeal is filed, 10 of the 11 acquitted will be released and sent home. One of the 11, Totoh bin Hismullah, may remain in Malaysia as he had been found by the Court to be a Malaysian citizen and no longer a Filipino.
On the other hand, the Court found prima facie evidence against the remaining 16 Filipinos.
However, the court’s ruling is only preliminary and was based on the evidence presented by the prosecution. A verdict on the culpability, if any, of the 16 remaining accused will be rendered when the defense has completed the presentation of its evidence, which is expected to begin later this month.
The Filipinos were represented by Malaysian lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan, who was hired by the Philippine government.