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Hong Kong wants Manila witnesses to testify at hijack probe

HONG KONG, December 17, 2010 (AFP) – Hong Kong has asked over 100 Philippine witnesses to testify at a public inquiry into the fatal hijacking in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, reports said Friday.

Department of Justice lawyer Jat Sew-tong said the 116 witnesses include Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, who is facing administrative sanctions over the authorities’ failed rescue operation, local Radio RTHK reported.

Police snipers, doctors and Philippine medical examiners would also be part of the witness group, RTHK quoted the lawyer as saying.

A justice department spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Disgraced policeman Rolando Mendoza, who commandeered a tourist bus in an ill-fated bid to get his job back, was also killed during the incident’s bloody conclusion, which played out live on television around the world.

Hong Kong’s government heaped criticism on Manila’s handling of the August crisis, which chilled diplomatic relations. Shortly after the incident, the Chinese territory advised citizens to avoid traveling to the Philippines.

Hong Kong also sent its own investigators to scour the hijacking scene in downtown Manila, later saying it would hold a public inquiry in February.

About 32 witnesses from Hong Kong would also be asked to testify at the hearing, RTHK reported. Witnesses from outside Hong Kong may be asked to testify by videolink, it added.

But Hong Kong is unlikely to be able to compel Philippine witnesses to attend the hearing if they refuse.

Philippine diplomatic officials would respond to the witness request in two week’s time, Cable Television News said.

“This is an ongoing matter before the coroner’s court so it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” Vice-consul Val Roque told AFP, declining to verify the television report.

On Thursday, the Philippine tourism secretary said Manila would pay unspecified compensation to the victims’ families and those injured, describing the payment as a “token of solidarity.”

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