KOTA KINABALU: Six fishermen were sentenced to six months’ jail and fined RM30,000 each by the Sessions Court here for possession of a protected species of turtle.
The six men were locals Rashed Delan, 38, and Alsadat Belog, 39; and Filipinos Madal Juldin, 37; Ibrahim Kahal, 44; Sidik Napaeh, 23; and Rasid Alain, 38.
They were found guilty of possessing 1,308 turtles illegally at Mengalum Island near here on Dec 7 last year.
Sessions judge Ainul Shahrin Mohamad handed down the sentence on Thursday after the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each man’s jail term was to run from the date of conviction while failure to pay the fine will result in an additional 30 days in prison.
The court also ordered the Filipinos to be referred to the Immigration Department for deportation after they have served their sentence.
According to the facts of the case, the men were found in illegal possession of Malayan box turtles (Cuora amboinensis), which are listed in the CITES Appendix II (Convention), at 2.45am on Dec 7 in Mangalum Island waters near Pulau Gaya.
CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, while Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
The six men were convicted under Section 41(2)/34 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, punishable under Section 41(4) of the same Enactment, which provides for a jail term of up to three years, or a fine of up to RM100,000, or both.
Defence counsel Azhier Farhan Arisin, in applying for leniency for his six clients, urged the court to show compassion to the accused and their families as the men were only fishermen earning a minimal income.
He said his clients deserved a second chance.
Wildlife Department prosecuting officer Abdul Karim Dakog sought a deterrent sentence, saying the case involved public interest.
He said their crime was a serious environmental offence and possessing 1,308 turtles was not a small matter.
“Cases such as this always get the attention of domestic and international groups," Abdul Karim said.
He then applied for the surviving turtles, numbering about 100, to be released into the wild and the carcasses of the dead ones to be disposed of.