A MALAYSIAN court on Thursday sentenced nine Filipino militants to death over their involvement in an incursion to reclaim the eastern state of Sabah.
The Court of Appeal made the decision after allowing an appeal by prosecutors to replace the nine men’s natural life imprisonment sentence for waging war on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysia’s king), the New Straits Times reported.
Reading out the grounds for the judgment, the court’s judge Mohd Zawawi Salleh said the men had meticulously executed the planning of the incursion.
— New Straits Times (@NST_Online) June 8, 2017
“The respondents were part of a conspiracy hatched across the border to wage war against the government of Malaysia and/or the King, to dictate its foreign relations with other countries, with intent to weaken the country from within so that they could reclaim Sabah,” he was quoted as saying.
Zawawi said such a ruthless attack by foreign enemies was unprecedented in Malaysia.
“For the above reasons, we allow the appeal and set aside the sentence imposed by the High Court against the respondents and substitute it with the death penalty against each of the respondents,” Zawawi said.
The nine men had earlier appealed against their conviction of waging war during the armed intrusion in Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013, the NST reported.
In early 2013, the Kiram clan of the Sulu Sultanate in Southern Philippines landed in Sabah’s Lahad Datu to stake its claim over the land, resulting in a bloody standoff with Malaysian forces that left 80 dead.
Sabah has long been the subject of a territorial dispute between the two nations.
The Kiram clan, which was led by self-proclaimed Sultan Esmail Kiram II until his death in 2015, say they are the descendants of the former rulers of the area stretching from southern Philippines to Sabah.
The last Sultan of Sulu officially recognised by the Philippine government was Mahakuttah Kiram, who died in 1986.
Historically, in 1963, the British government transferred administration of Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia. But according to the Kiram clan, Sabah was only leased, and not ceded, to the British North Borneo Co.
— KualaLumpur Reporter (@KL_Reporter) June 8, 2017
Malaysia, however, maintains Sabah has been recognised as part of its territory by the international community since the formation of the federation in 1963.
In the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion, the Kiram clan attempted to take Sabah by force by sending 200 armed men to Kampung Tanduo, sparking the month-long security crisis.
By the end of the standoff, 70 Filipino gunmen and 10 Malaysian security officers were reported to be killed.