7 ICRC kidnap suspects released

MANILA, Philippines – For lack of evidence, the seven suspects in the kidnapping of three Red Cross workers were released Wednesday but would be subjected to further investigation by the Zamboanga City prosecutor’s office, a police spokesman confirmed.

Superintendent Jose Gucela of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operation (DIPO) in Western Mindanao, said the seven, which included three policemen, were ordered released by fiscal Peter Medalle at around 3:30 p.m. for “lack of prima facie evidence” on their involvement in the kidnapping of Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni, and Andreas Notter of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Upon the fiscal’s investigation, they could not establish the prima facie evidence during the preliminary investigation,” he added.

Despite of this, Gucela said the investigation would continue against the suspects.

He admitted, however, that they could not prevent the suspects from leaving the province.

“That is their right. We cannot hold them for a long period of time,” Gucela said.

The suspects were identified as Senior Police Officer 3 Muhilmi Ismula of the Sulu Provincial Police Operations Intelligence Section; PO2 Marcial Ahajan of the Indanan Municipal Police Office; SPO1 Sattal Jadjuli of Patikul municipal police; Kanaway, Parang village chief Alano Mohammad; Sawaki, Indanan village chief Julhassan Awadi; Hadjirul Bambra; and Ibnogajir Hadjirul.

Gucela said the suspects were related to Abu Sayyaf leaders either by “blood or marriage.”

Meanwhile, Chief Supt. Edwin Diocos, chief of the CIDG in Western Mindanao, said the Regional Prosecutor’s Office through Fiscal Peter Medalle found that the documents they have submitted or the case filed before them “turned out to be lacking in evidence to establish probable cause.”

But Diocos said they viewed the release of the suspects as “temporary dismissal.”

“We are further directed to conduct more investigation,” he said, adding that the CIDG could still file charges against the suspects.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told the Inquirer during a visit to the Western Mindanao police headquarters here that the seven suspects were innocent of the charges against them.

“I believe in their innocence and I take full responsibility over them,” Tan said.

He admitted that he played a big role in the dismissal of the charges against the suspects because “there is no strong case against them.”

Diocos said the CIDG was prepared for any damage suits the suspects may file against them.

Ahajan said in a separate interview he did not feel bad about being suspected although he branded his arrest as illegal.

“I was worried and so was my family. But I don’t have anything against my colleagues. It’s the process,” he said.

Ismula said he was merely invited for questioning.

Ahajan said he had nothing to do with the kidnapping of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. Lacaba was released from captivity on April 2.

Diocos said despite the denial of the suspects, the CIDG believed in the credibility of its witnesses, who implicated them in the ICRC kidnapping.

“They are credible witnesses, who are former members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, naniniwala pa rin kami and they remain as our credible witnesses,” he said.

Diocos said their witnesses would never provide erroneous information.

Meanwhile, Tan denied issuing a statement on Tuesday about the imminent release of the two remaining hostages.

“I didn’t say they were to be released. What I said is that they could be free in two days time if the kidnappers wanted to release them,” he said.

Tan said they were trying to secure Notter and Vagni’s release and that there were several groups he tasked as negotiators.

Asked about rumors of ransom paid for the release of Lacaba, Tan replied: “I don’t want to say anything more about that.”

Sulu Vice Governor Nur-Ana Sahidulla, who picked up Lacaba from an Indanan village when she was released, also laughed off the rumors.

“I can’t imagine myself bringing such a huge amount of money to the jungles,” she said.

Sahidulla said bringing such an amount would not be safe, even for an official like her.

Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net
Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on April 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm  Comments Off on 7 ICRC kidnap suspects released  
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