Witnesses fail to identify Abu Sayyaf suspects
Suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists wrongly arrested for the 2002 abduction of several Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patikul, Sulu, may be released before the end of the month.
Twenty-one accused claiming innocence were presented at a hearing on the reinvestigation of the kidnap-for-ransom case conducted by the Department of Justice on Monday, but eight of them were pointed to by two witnesses—one of them a former hostage—as being members of the terror group.
It was the third reinvestigation of the Aug. 20, 2002, abduction of four women and two men who were members of the religious group in Patikul.
The two men were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf while the women were rescued by police and the military.
At the start of the hearing, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said it was the prosecutors themselves who pushed for the reinvestigation.
“We noticed, for instance, two persons being arrested under one name and we noticed an injustice there,” said Ong, adding that the Pasig RTC ordered them to conduct the reinvestigation in 60 days.
All 21 Abu Sayyaf members who were handcuffed were made to line up for identification in batches to face two of the three witnesses who were brought in, their faces concealed.
Of the 21, the eight who were pointed to by two witnesses denied the accusation.
One of the eight, Julhassan A. Jaani Ybanez, was identified by the female witness as the one who beheaded her husband.
But Ybanez denied this, saying he was an imam (Muslim leader) and an assistant of Col. Akho San Juan, the military chaplain of the Western Mindanao Command. He said he was arrested in 2006. Christine O. Avendaño
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