August 14, 2004, Philippine Star, 17 Sayyaf men get death for 2001 Lamitan hospital siege, Roel Pareno,
ISABELA, Basilan Seventeen members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group were sentenced to death yesterday for kidnapping nurses from a hospital in Lamitan, Basilan three years ago.
It was the first mass conviction of members of the Abu Sayyaf who have been kidnapping and killing Christians and foreigners in Mindanao for a decade.
Only 13 convicts, however, were present in a heavily guarded courthouse on Basilan island, where a clerk read the 41-page ruling that included a narration of a kidnapping spree that began with the mass abduction of more than 50 pupils, teachers and a priest in 2000, as well as three Americans and 17 Filipino tourists a year later.
Some of the convicted men sobbed when the verdict was read out while crowds outside the building shouted curses at the defendants.
About 200 police and soldiers, backed by two armored cars, secured the entire street where the courthouse was situated. They frisked pedestrians and shooed away those on motorcycles.
Among those sentenced to death was prominent Abu Sayyaf leader Mubin Ibba, alias Abu Black, who led the jailbreak on Black Saturday. Ibba and three others - Toting Hanoh, Jaid Awalan, and Anik Abbas - remain at large after they escaped from the Lamitan jail last April and were sentenced in absentia.
The convicts who were present during the reading of the sentence were
Abdurahman Ismael Dialogia,
Markani Hapilon Iblong,
Nadzmer Isnani Mandangan,
Sonny Asali and
"They have accepted it (the sentence) and showed no remorse during the handing down of the decision,"Basilan information chief Cris Puno said.
As they were led out of the courtroom, some of the defendants shouted defiantly,"Allahu Akbar (God is Great)!"
One of the convicted men, Mandangan, said: "It's okay, even if you kill me 10 times, I am still happy. Tell that to your government."
Puno said the bandits were positively identified by their former hostages Reyna Malonzo, Reyna Tabunyag and Joel Guillo.
The Abu Sayyaf guerrillas raided the Jose Torres Hospital in Lamitan on June 2, 2001 to get medicines for their wounded comrades. The bandits brought along with them hostages from Dos Palmas, Palawan, including American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, and Guillermo Sobero.
Soldiers surrounded the building and the rebels took three female nurses and a male hospital clerk hostage to aid their escape.
Two of the nurses and the clerk later escaped. Another nurse, Edibora Yap, was killed more than a year later during a military rescue operation in Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte that also killed Martin Burnham.
Gracia, meanwhile, was recovered alive and last month she returned to the Philippines to testify against other accused Abu Sayyaf members in a separate trial in Manila.
Many Filipino hostages were recovered or freed after ransoms were paid.
Prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron said each member of the group received three death penalties for kidnapping the women. They were additionally sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping the male clerk.
"They will also be tried in other cases where they also participated," he said, referring to other kidnappings and killings including the beheading of Sobero several days after the escape from the Lamitan hospital. With AFP