ISA detainee gets jail for lying in Singapore passport application when he had Australian passport

ISA detainee gets jail for lying in Singapore passport application when he had Australian passport

ISA detainee charged with lying in Singapore passport application
A photo Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff posted on his Facebook page of himself with his children in front of a flag used by terror groups. (Photo: Ministry of Home Affairs)

SINGAPORE: A man who was detained in 2016 under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities was sentenced on Thursday (Oct 22) to six weeks' jail for lying in a passport application in 2013.

Australian national Mohamad Shariff Zulfikar, 49, pleaded guilty to one charge under the Passports Act of making a false statement in his Singapore passport application.

According to a press release by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Oct 8, he held dual citizenship for Singapore and Australia at the time of his arrest.

Shariff had resettled his family in Australia in 2002. The court heard that he applied for Australian citizenship with his son in 2011, intending to let his son evade national service in Singapore.

Shariff later received Australian citizenship, despite knowing that Singapore does not allow dual citizenship.

He continued to travel to Singapore, using methods to avoid detection such as departing with one passport and travelling to Singapore via Malaysia using his Singapore passport.

He successfully entered Singapore on 15 occasions, and later renewed his Singapore passport in 2013. In his online application, he declared that he had not acquired citizenship of another country – a statement that was false.

He required a valid Singapore passport so that he could continue to travel into Singapore without authorities discovering his Australian citizenship, the court heard.

MHA said earlier this month that Shariff was arrested by the Internal Security Department and has been detained under the ISA since July 2016 for his "active promotion of terrorism and glorification of the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) online".

His actions contributed to at least two Singaporeans being radicalised and he had also "exhorted Muslims to reject the constitutional, secular, democratic state in favour of the establishment of an Islamic state governed by Syariah law", believing that violence should be used if necessary to achieve this goal.

After Shariff was detained, his Australian citizenship was discovered and he was charged for the passport offence.

The prosecutor asked for six weeks' jail, noting that Shariff planned his route to avoid detection and succeeded multiple times without raising any suspicion.

He also concealed his dual citizenship and continued to hold both passports.

MHA said in its press release on Oct 8 that he has since renounced his Singapore citizenship and ceased to be a Singaporean as of Aug 26 this year.

FAMILY STRUGGLING TO COPE: DEFENCE

The defence lawyer asked for four to five weeks' jail, saying that his client's case was "unique".

Shariff has been detained under ISA for more than four years, said the lawyer, adding that Shariff's family in Australia has struggled to cope with his absence.

"I heard from the wife that one of my client's (children) is also having to seek professional psychological help to cope with my client's situation," said the lawyer, asking the court to take Shariff's "long time" in detention into account.

The judge noted that there was a level of deception in the case and agreed with the prosecution's submitted sentence.

For his offence under the Passports Act, Shariff could have been jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.

Source: CNA/ll

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