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Man in violent Abu Sayyaf group may plead guilty

Man in violent Abu Sayyaf group may plead guilty

The case of an alleged Muslim militant accused in a mass kidnapping of four Americans and other vacationers at a Philippine resort may be resolved with a guilty plea by the defendant, federal prosecutors and a lawyer for the man say.
Madhatta Haipe, a Philippine citizen who prosecutors say is a member of the violent militant group Abu Sayyaf, was extradited to the United States last year after being held in his home country.
Abu Sayyaf is suspected of having received funds and training from al-Qaida and is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Its bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings of hostages have made it the Philippines' most brutal rebel group.
Prosecutors and Haipe's lawyer said in a joint federal court filing Thursday that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle to resolve the case and that they should be ready by mid-July for the defendant to change his plea. Haipe pleaded not guilty to an indictment last September.
Between now and then, Justice Department officials will need to finalize the agreement and the two sides will have to agree on the wording of a factual proffer outlining Haipe's conduct, according to the court filing.
Last August after his extradition, a U.S. official said Haipe is a member of Abu Sayyaf, which has been part of a decades-long Muslim rebellion in the southern Philippines. The official spoke on a condition of anonymity discussing details of the case not included in the public record.
An indictment alleges Haipe is known as Commander Haipe and is a former professor of Islamic studies at Mindanao State University in the Philippines. A court-appointed public defender is representing him.
Haipe is accused of leading a group of heavily armed kidnappers who took 16 people from the remote mountainous Traan-Kine Spring Resort at Lake Sebu, 640 miles (1,030 kilometers) southeast of Manila, on Dec. 27, 2005.
Most of the hostages were held for five days. The group included four Americans, identified in press reports at the time as Californians who had been visiting Filipino relatives for the holidays.
The press accounts said the Americans included 10-year-old Noe Roque, who was taken along with her parents Helen and Nelson Roque. Helen Roque was also an American citizen, but her husband was not. The two other Americans were Helen Roque's sister Elenita Dayao and a woman named Gloria San Gabriel, who reportedly was visiting her husband and two children in the Philippines at the time.
Within a few hours of the kidnapping, the gunmen took the hostages' valuables and threatened to kill anyone who tried to escape, the indictment says. The indictment says Haipe questioned the victims about their citizenship, occupations and financial resources to determine ransom, then demanded $38,000 for the release of Nelson Roque and his daughter.
Helen Roque and Elenita Dayao were released along with two Filipinos with instructions to collect the money by the following day, the indictment says. Prosecutors said they were told that any military intervention would result in the death of the remaining hostages, who were forced to march through the mountainous jungle to a hostage camp protected by armed guards.
Prosecutors say the remaining hostages were released on Dec. 31, 1995, after the kidnappers collected $57,000 in ransom.
A week later, Philippine army officers reported that troops with helicopter gunships attacked the suspected kidnappers, killing seven and capturing three. They said Haipe was wounded but was taken away by his men. He had been held in his home country for at least three months before last year's extradition to the United States.


Updated : 2021-04-10 23:01 GMT+08:00