Court jails Abu Sayyaf kidnappers

Philippine court finds 14 guilty six years after abducting holiday-makers.

    The Abu Sayyaf group is believed by Western and Philippine intelligence to have ties to al Qaeda

    Burnham and his wife Gracia had been celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a resort of the island of Palawan when they were kidnapped.

     

    Gracia Burnham was a key witness in the trial, which opened in 2003 and lasted for more than three years.

     

    She told the court she learned from the group's leader, Abu Sabaya, that the kidnappers had received a ransom from an unknown source, but that they still refused to free her and her husband.

     

    US missionary Martin Burnham was among four
    killed during a rescue attempt in 2002 [EPA]

    Most of the Abu Sayyaf's top leaders blamed for orchestrating the kidnapping were killed by Philippine troops after the abductions.

     

    Four other rebels held in connection with the kidnapping were killed in a botched prison break in 2005.

     

    In total, 18 defendants including one woman were brought to trial over the case, although four were acquitted in Thursday's court ruling.

     

    Of the four acquitted, three will remain in jail because they face other kidnapping charges.

     

    "We are satisfied with the judgment," state prosecutor Peter Medalle told reporters after the verdict.

     

    The kidnapping is widely seen as having been the main trigger for the US to start providing aid and training to Philippine troops to mount offensives against the Abu Sayyaf.

     

    The group, which is fighting for a separate Muslim state in the southern islands of the Philippines, is believed by Philippine and Western intelligence agencies to have links with al-Qaeda.

     

    In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized 21 European and Asian tourists from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan. All of them were freed after Libya offered funds for their release.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Will you push the boundaries or play it safe?

    Will you push the boundaries or play it safe?

    Curate an art exhibition and survive Thailand's censorship crackdown in this interactive game.