KOTA KINABALU: Notorious cross-border kidnap gang leader Kadafi Muktadil could walk free from a southern Philippines police lock-up if Filipino prosecutors fail to secure the original Malaysian warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate's court in Sandakan.
Lawyers for Kadafi, who took part in the kidnapping of beheaded Sarawakian engineer Bernard Then Ted Fen, have applied to the Philippines court for his release because the arrest warrant submitted by the prosecutors was merely a photostat copy.
The lawyers have filed an urgent motion of habeas corpus seeking Kadafi's immediate freedom.
They also argued that Kadafi, who is a key player in the Muktadil brothers gang linked to the Abu Sayyaf terror group, should be freed as there was no extradition treaty between Malaysia and the Philippines.
However, other Filipino officials say that if Malaysian authorities wanted Kadafi to face kidnapping charges in Sabah, they could try using the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty under ASEAN to seek his extradition.
Jolo police chief Major Junpikar Sitin told The Star they hoped that Malaysian authorities would send the original arrest warrant as a photostat copy might not be accepted by the court.
"We have submitted a photostat copy but it is quite a weak document for us to argue our case in court and detain him further," Major Sitin said.
He added that Kadafi remained in custody under Jolo police pending the conclusion of their investigations into other kidnapping cases.
Kadafi and his brother Mindas were part of the kidnap gang which snatched Then, 37, and Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, manageress of Ocean King Seafood restaurant, in Sandakan on May 14 last year.
Thien was released on Nov 8 while Then was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen after ransom negotiations collapsed on Nov 17.
Kadafi was arrested by Philippines security forces at a hospital in Jolo after he was injured following a motorcycle accident on Nov 28.
His arrest was seen as a major breakthrough in efforts by both the Philippines and Malaysia to cripple the gang linked to cross-border kidnappings.
Two other Muktadir brothers, Nikson and Badong, who are members of the gang based in the southern Philippines' Tawi Tawi chain of islands, remain at large.