KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A Malaysian court sentenced nine Filipinos to life in prison on Tuesday (July 26) over an armed incursion in 2013 that left scores dead and paralysed a town in Sabah for weeks, a defence lawyer said.
Eight others, including three Malaysians, received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years, said the attorney, N. Sivananthan.
The bloody incursion in Lahad Datu by some 200 Islamic militants from the southern Philippines was inspired by a self-proclaimed Filipino sultanate's claims of historical dominion over the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.
The assault, the most serious security crisis faced by Malaysia in years, led to a siege between the militants and Malaysian armed forces sent to root them out.
At least 70 people were killed, mostly militants, over the six-week ordeal.
Nine of the defendants had faced death for "waging war" against Malaysia's king, but were spared by the court in the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu.
"They could have been sentenced to death but the judge decided on the lower penalty because there was no evidence they pulled the triggers or committed any murders," N. Sivananthan said.
The others had faced various terrorism-related charges.
Earlier, 12 other Filipinos had been acquitted.
Among those sentenced to life was 53-year-old Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, son of self-styled Sulu sultan Esmail Kiram.
Esmail, who died in 2015, was among a series of claimants to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and part of Borneo.
The crisis embarrassed both Manila and Kuala Lumpur, shining a spotlight on weak Malaysian border protections, and lawlessness in the Philippines' predominantly Muslim south.
The episode eventually fizzled out when some of the militants fled the palm oil plantation where they had been holed up and returned to the Philippines. Scores were detained in Malaysia.