A Philippine court on Friday sentenced to death an Indonesian and two Filipino Muslim militants for their roles in the bombing of a Manila bus in February. The Feb. 14 attack killed four people and wounded scores of others. The al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group had claimed responsibility for the bombing, as well as two other bomb attacks in two southern towns on the same day, in retaliation for a military offensive against militants.
The Indonesian, who goes by one name, Rohmat, is a confessed member of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah who was captured in March in the southern Philippines, where authorities say several dozen Indonesian militants have been training local guerrillas in bomb-making and plotting attacks.
Rohmat pleaded not guilty, while two Filipino co-accused, Gamal Baharan and Abu Khalil Trinidad, admitted to multiple murder charges.
Prosecutors have dropped charges against another suspect, Gappal Bannah, an Abu Sayyaf member, after he became a state witness.
Rohmat said during his arraignment in April that he had nothing to do with the bombing because he was in the Philippines' southern Mindanao region at the time. But he claimed he provided training in weapons, tactics and map reading to the three other suspects, the AP says.
"This decision convicting all the accused of the complex crime of multiple murder, murder, and frustrated murder, was rendered after thoroughly and painstakingly evaluating the evidence presented, the most significant of which included the ... voluntary pleas of accused Baharan and Trinidad (and) the clear and categorical testimony of accused turned state witness (Bannah)," Judge Marissa Guillen of the Makati City Regional Trial Court said in a statement.
Prosecutors also charged Abu Sayyaf chiefs Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman for the bus bombing. The two leaders remain at large.
During the five-month trial, one of the witnesses, a bus conductor, identified Baharan and Trinidad as passengers who left the bus in a hurry shortly before the blast, state prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco said.
Lawyers for the three men will appeal.
No date for the execution has been set, though none has been carried out in the Philippines since 2000.
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill