ISD detainee charged with financing terrorist acts in Syria

·4 min read
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
The Singapore State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A 50-year-old radicalised Singaporean who was detained under the Internal Security Act was on Monday (19 July) charged with financing terrorism.

Appearing at the State Courts via video-link, Mohamed Kazali Salleh was accused of passing RM1,000 to Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin at a bus terminal in Johor Bahru in December 2013 to facilitate a terrorist act in Syria.

In January 2014, Kazali allegedly also remitted USD351.75 to Wan Mohd Aquil, a Syria-based militant with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group also known as Akel Zainal, through a Western Union branch in Singapore for the same purpose. Sometime in early 2014, Kazali also purportedly remitted RM500 to Akel through a Western Union branch in Malaysia to facilitate a terrorist act in Syria.

Kazali was arrested in Malaysia by Special Branch officers in December 2018 and was handed over to Singapore's Internal Security Department in January 2019. A pre-trial conference for the case has been set for 11 August.

If found guilty, Kazali faces a fine of up to $500,000, up to 10 years jail, or both for each of his three terrorism financing charges.

About the case

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) earlier said that Kazali was a businessman based in Malaysia and a close associate of Akel, who was believed to be the most senior Malaysian ISIS fighter in Syria before his reported death in March 2019.

Akel had been identified by the Malaysian authorities to be responsible for two ISIS-linked attack plots in Malaysia. He is also reported to have instructed two Malaysian ISIS supporters to mount attacks against places of worship and police stations in Malaysia in early 2019. The plots were foiled when the two supporters were arrested in November 2018.

Kazali relocated to Malaysia with his family when he was a young child, and had been working in Johor Bahru over the past decade, said MHA.

He first met Akel in 2009 and allegedly became influenced by the latter's radical views and conspiracy theories. He was purportedly convinced by Akel’s belief that Muslims are duty-bound to travel to Syria to fight against those who oppress Muslims.

When Akel decided to go to Syria to fight in late 2013, Kazali allegedly provided him with financial assistance for his trip. This purportedly continued when Akel was in Syria and, in turn, Akel kept him updated on his exploits on the battlefield. Kazali believed that the help he gave to Akel would guarantee him a place in paradise should Akel achieve martyrdom in Syria, said MHA.

As Kazali became increasingly radicalised, he saw ISIS fighters as “righteous” individuals defending Muslims in Syria and around the world, the ministry added. At Akel’s urging, he took a bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which was conveyed to Akel via social media.

Kazali also allegedly agreed to join Akel in Syria when invited by the latter to do so on several occasions. But he did not act on it as he was not ready to leave his life in Malaysia behind, said MHA.

Instead, Kazali took to sharing news of Akel’s terrorism-related activities in Syria on social media to inspire others to travel to Syria. He was prepared to facilitate the travel of any individual who wanted to undertake armed violence in Syria through Akel.

In December 2018, Kazali received instructions from Akel to carry out an attack against a Freemasons centre in Johor Bahru, but did not follow through as he was afraid to be caught by the authorities.

In a statement after he was charged on Monday, MHA said that if he is found guilty, Kazali's detention order would be cancelled and he would serve the sentence imposed by the court.

"To prevent him from spreading his radical ideas to other inmates, he will be held separately, and will continue to undergo rehabilitation whilst serving his prison sentence," said MHA.

"An assessment will be made at the end of his sentence whether he has been successfully rehabilitated or remains a threat to society. If he remains a threat, he may be detained further under the ISA," said the ministry.

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