WASHINGTON— Fifteen years after leading a kidnapping that turned a family vacation into a hostage crisis, the former second-in-command of the Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf was sentenced Friday to 23 years in an American prison.
Madhatta Haipe led about 40 members of Abu Sayyaf in abducting 16 vacationers at a mountain tourist resort in the southern Philippines during Christmas week 1995. The hostages included six children and two pregnant women and were released after five days when ransom was paid.
Haipe was prosecuted in the United States because four hostages were American citizens and a fifth was a permanent resident alien. Those five victims and others who flew in from as far away as the Philippines appeared in court during a five-hour hearing and tearfully described how they still are traumatized and suffer psychological problems.
Bien-Elize Roque, who was 11 when she was kidnapped along with her parents, said the experience stole her childhood and left her with nightmares of men in camouflage and an obsession with locking doors and windows. "You had no right to force me to grow up," she told Haipe.
Haipe, 48, evaded capture for more than a decade, mostly living in Malaysia as the owner of a string of small businesses and father after he said he left Abu Sayyaf in 1997. But prosecutor Gregg Maisel said, "The United States never forgot."