SINGAPORE — A 51-year-old radicalised Singaporean who was detained under the Internal Security Act was on Thursday (9 September) jailed for three years and 10 months for financing terrorism.
Mohamed Kazali Salleh, who was first charged last month, pleaded guilty at the State Courts via video-link to two out of three charges under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act.
The remaining count was considered in sentencing.
Passed money to Syria-based militant
In December 2013, Kazali passed RM1,000 to Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin at a bus terminal in Johor Bahru to facilitate a terrorist act in Syria. Wan Mohd Aquil, also known as Akel Zainal, was a Syria-based militant with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
The following January, Kazali also remitted USD351.75 to Wan Mohd Aquil through a Western Union branch in Singapore, for the same purpose.
On another occasion in early 2014, Kazali also 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.
According to Malaysia's Special Branch, Wan Mohd Aquil was killed in an airstrike in March 2019.
Worked in Malaysia for over a decade
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 death in March 2019.
Akel had been identified by the Malaysian authorities as being responsible for two ISIS-linked attack plots in Malaysia. He reportedly also 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 convinced by Akel’s belief that Muslims are duty-bound to travel to Syria to fight against those who oppress Muslims.
A guaranteed 'place in paradise'
When Akel decided to go to Syria to fight in late 2013, Kazali provided him with financial assistance for his trip. This 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. 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 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 Freemason centre in Johor Bahru, but did not follow through as he was afraid of being caught.
In a statement after he was charged last month, MHA said that if 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.
For each of his two proceeded charges under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, Kazali could have been fined up to $500,000 and/or jailed up to 10 years.
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