Philippines rebel may face two courts

November 25, 2001 Posted: 4:55 PM HKT (0855 GMT)

Nur Misuari
Malaysia and the Philippines will now decide the fate of governor and rebel leader Nur Misuari  

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- Renegade governor Nur Misuari is likely to face court in the Philippines or Malaysia or both over the deaths of as many as 160 people in running battles with the military last week.

Misuari, who heads the Moro National Liberation Front, was captured on Saturday when he and six followers arrived by boat in Malaysia on an island that residents say had been a MNLF training camp.

On Monday the regional elections Misuari sought to disrupt will go ahead to choose his successor as new governor for the semi-autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines.

Troops went on full alert on Sunday to deal with any violence.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo thanked Malaysia for capturing Misuari and said she would prefer he remained in a Malaysian jail to face local laws before deportation to the Philippines, where he faces rebellion charges.

Her peace adviser Eduardo Ermita said in a radio interview: "The instructions of the (presidential) palace are to request that he be turned over. But we will respect the right of Malaysian authorities to conduct their own investigation."

Malaysia and the Philippines have a border patrol agreement to prevent illegal entry into each other's territory, Philippine foreign undersecretary Lauro Baja said.

"Even if we have no extradition treaty, we can request as a matter of diplomatic courtesy, friendship among nations, that he be brought back here," he added.

Decision within days

Asked when the Philippines could expect Malaysia to hand over Misuari, Baja said: "Within the next few days, it will be resolved."

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai said in Kuala Lumpur that Misuari and six followers were arrested on Pulau Jampiras in Sabah but declined to say where they were being held.

"There is a possibility that Misuari's presence here is a threat to national security," he told the New Sunday Times newspaper. Misuari was captured as armed policemen under cover of darkness ambushed a boat as it was about to land at Jampiras, some 18 hours away by boat from Jolo, where last week's uprising took place, and detained Misuari and his men.

"They did not put up a struggle and no weapons were found," Norian said, adding one of the men arrested was identified as Abdul Harris, a senior aide who headed the MNLF's Islamic supreme court.

Misuari's MNLF waged a bloody, 24-year separatist revolt until he signed a peace pact with the government in 1996.