S’porean businessman sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison for financing terrorist acts in Syria, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories
SINGAPORE – Singaporean businessman gave Malaysian money totaling more than $ 1,000 to facilitate his trip to Syria to become an Islamic State fighter in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) .
Mohamed Kazali Salleh, now 51, who committed the offenses in 2013 and 2014, was sentenced Thursday, September 9 to three years and 10 months in prison.
He admitted two counts under the Terrorism (Suppression of Funding) Act involving RM 1,000 (S $ 385) and US $ 351.75 (S $ 450).
A third charge under the same law related to another RM500 was considered in sentencing.
The Straits Times understands that this case marks the first time that a person has been prosecuted in Singapore for funding a person’s trip to a foreign country to become or train to become a terrorist.
Some time in 2009, Kazali traveled to Malaysia and befriended a Malaysian identified as Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, also known as Akel Zainal.
Akel was also a member of the Malaysian 1990s rock band Ukays.
Deputy prosecutors Edwin Soh and Andrew Chia said in court documents: “During this trip, Akel spoke to the accused about his religious views, as well as his Jewish conspiracy theory – that the Jews wanted to control the economy and that people should unite to fight the Jews.
“This intrigued the accused and he kept in touch with Akel after this meeting.”
The two met on several occasions from 2010 to 2013, attending church sermons and political rallies together in Malaysia.
On these occasions, Akel shared his extremist ideology with Kazali.
This included the Malaysian’s keen interest in becoming a mujahideen – a fighter in a Muslim army – to fight the Syrian government in order to “defend the Muslims in Syria”.
Kazali agreed with and supported Akel’s extremist ideology.
“It is for this reason that the accused wanted to support Akel in his goal of becoming a mujahideen,” the DPP said.
Sometime in 2013, Akel told Kazali of his intention to travel to Syria to become a mujahedin. Akel also mentioned that he would join a group called Jabal Usra under ISIS.
He invited Kazali to go to Syria with him, but the Singaporean told his friend to go there first.
Akel then asked Kazali for money to buy a plane ticket to Turkey from where he would go to Syria.
In December of the same year, Kazali, who ran a business in Malaysia, met Akel at the Larkin bus station in Johor Baru and handed him RM1,000.
The following month, Akel contacted Kazali via the WhatsApp messaging platform and told the Singaporean that he needed more money for his trip.
Around January 25, 2014, Kazali asked her daughter to hand over US $ 351.75 to Akel’s contact in Turkey.
She carried out her father’s instructions at a Western Union branch in Singapore.
Akel joined ISIS in 2014 and later assumed a leadership role within the organization after the death of fellow Malaysian activist Muhd Wanndy Mohamed Jedi in April 2017.
The DPP said, “Akel has also been identified by Malaysian authorities as responsible for two ISIS-related attack plots in Malaysia in 2019.
“These plots involved ordering two Malaysian supporters of ISIS to launch attacks on places of worship and police stations in Malaysia in early 2019. These plots were ultimately foiled.”
Akel was later killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria in 2019, the court said.
Malaysian Special Branch officers arrested Kazali on December 19, 2018.
He was returned to Singapore and the Department of Homeland Security arrested him on January 7, 2019.
Later that month, he received a detention order under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
In a previous statement, Singapore’s Home Office (MHA) said that if convicted, the detention order against Kazali will be rescinded and he will serve the sentence imposed by the court.
He will now be held separately in prison and will continue to undergo re-education “to prevent him from spreading his radical ideas to other inmates”.
At the end of his sentence, an assessment will be made to see if he has been successfully rehabilitated or if he remains a threat to society.
“If there is still a threat, he can be detained further under the ISA,” the MHA said.
Prosecutors on Thursday urged the court to sentence Kazali to three years and 10 months in prison, pointing out that ISIS is one of the most dangerous terrorist groups responsible for “reprehensible” terrorist attacks in the world.
They added: “It should be noted that the accused made the conscious decision to provide Akel with money… on three occasions. This was not a whim and a one-off offense.
Defense lawyers Noor Mohamed Marican and Mohd Munir Marican have pleaded for the lowest possible sentence of 11 months in prison.
Lawyers for Marican & Associates added, “The defendant has now realized that ISIS is a terrorist slaughter organization whose atrocities, vision and purpose are unreservedly condemned.
They also said Kazali was “determined to rehabilitate himself” so that he can reintegrate into society as a law-abiding citizen.
Under the Terrorism (Suppression of Funding) Act, which was introduced in 2002 to combat terrorist financing here, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to 500 $ 000 for each charge.