SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man was sentenced to 33 months' jail on Tuesday (Jan 14) for financing terrorism in the first trial of its kind.
Imran Kassim, 36, was convicted of one count of funding Islamic State (IS) propaganda by sending S$450 to a man named Mohamad Alsaied Alhmidan in Turkey on Oct 31, 2014.
After a short trial that lasted only a few hours, District Judge Seah Chi-Ling found Imran guilty based on his statements to officers, his admissions in court, and a remittance advice and receipt.
He knew that the money would benefit IS, which is an entity within the Al-Qaeda list and clearly a terrorist entity, said the judge.
Imran admitted in his statements that he had sent the money in response to a Facebook post, as he believed the donation would benefit the page holder, whose work was to get support for IS.
He answered that he donated because it would "help spread support for IS", gather more supporters for IS and raise awareness for IS.
The judge also responded to Imran's defence, which he said had two strands.
"First, he claims he is not subject to Singapore law, being subject instead to Islamic Sharia law," said Judge Seah. "The accused does not cite any authority in support of this submission."
He added: "This argument is clearly ... without basis in our laws, and I therefore reject the accused's argument."
Responding to Imran's allegations that there were inconsistencies and "gross exaggerations" in the way IS is portrayed, and that opponents of IS have themselves committed atrocities, the judge said that even if these facts were proven, his arguments were not a defence in criminal law.
The prosecution asked for a sentence of 32 to 33 months' jail, saying that while Imran was the first offender to claim trial for a terrorism financing offence, he was not the first to be prosecuted.
They listed aggravating factors including how Imran carried out the offence in a deliberate fashion, how he donated to "one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations in the world" and how he has displayed "no remorse".
"He does not recognise Singapore law, despite being a Singaporean who has enjoyed Singaporean citizenship his entire life," said the prosecutor.
"Even going so far as to say that he transferred the money to protest Singapore's participation in the war against IS."
ACCUSED HAD INTEREST IN ISIS SINCE 2013
They highlighted that the donations were part of his larger, long-standing plans to support IS.
"Since 2013, the accused began taking an interest in IS and followed IS videos, including videos on executions conducted by IS," said Mr Khoo and Mr Foo.
Imran tried but failed to join IS in Syria in 2014 under the guise of providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, they said.
He posted his pledge of allegiance to IS on his Facebook in July 2014, admitting that he did so as he thought IS fulfilled the criteria as a caliphate.
The S$450 donation to the man in Turkey was a considered decision made in a deliberate fashion, "consistent with the accused's unabashed and unrepentant support for IS, which persists to this very day", said the prosecution.
Imran said he had nothing to say as he had "said everything I had to say yesterday".
The unrepresented man had declined to take a stand at the start of the trial on Monday when asked if he was pleading guilty or claiming trial.
He said he did not recognise Singapore law and only recognises Islamic law, a point the prosecution used against him in saying he had displayed "no remorse".
FAMILY SAYS THEY DO NOT SUPPORT IMRAN'S ACTIONS
Imran's family members, who declined to be named, told CNA after the conviction that they did not support Imran's actions, but stressed that he had decided not to mount a legal defence as he had purportedly been told by the Internal Security Department (ISD) that he would be detained indefinitely regardless of conviction.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had said in a statement when Imran was charged last year that Imran may be detained further under the Internal Security Act "if he remains a threat" after finishing his jail term if convicted.
"We are not supporting his actions in any shape or form," said a male family member. "It's very clear that he broke the law in (transferring the money)."
He said the family had not expected Imran's actions, and that they had not had physical contact with him for more than two years, touching his hand only briefly during the trial opening on Monday.
The family told reporters outside the court after the sentencing that Imran was "a very principled man" and the kindest person they knew, but that they stood with Singapore against Imran's actions.
"He ultimately wanted to protect people to save civilians and not kill them, but he has sided with an enemy of Singapore known for using fear, intimidation and manipulation," said the family in a statement.
"We fully reject IS as an organisation and the stain they have left on Islam. How do we move forward from here? As a family, we pray for the change in Imran and for his eventual release. As part of society, we pray for greater understanding and respect, so that we can continue to enjoy the incredible peace we have here in Singapore."
IMRAN ENGAGED DEFENCE COUNSEL: MHA
On Wednesday, MHA clarified that Imran's detention under the ISA "did not preclude his mounting a legal defence for his TSOFA case" and that he was not discouraged from doing so.
"Imran had in fact engaged the services of a defence counsel for his TSOFA case but we understand that the counsel subsequently discharged himself," said MHA.
The ministry said Imran's detention order under the ISA and his prosecution for the terrorism financing offence are "independent of one another".
"His OD is necessary to prevent him from acting in a manner that is prejudicial to the security of Singapore, in view of his involvement in terrorism-related activities.
"Specifically, Imran made two attempts to join and fight alongside the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and was prepared to take Singaporean soldiers deployed in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS as hostages. Imran’s TSOFA conviction pertains to his funding of ISIS," said MHA.
Following his conviction under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, Imran's detention order under the ISA will be cancelled "as his incarceration for his TSOFA conviction would be sufficient to prevent him from acting in a manner that is prejudicial to the security of Singapore", the authorities said.
It added that towards the end of his prison sentence, an assessment will be made on the security threat he poses, in particular the possibility of his re-involvement in terrorism-related activities.
"Should it be assessed that he continues to pose a security threat to Singapore, Imran will again be detained under the ISA," said MHA.
The penalties for providing property for the benefit of a terrorist or terrorist entity is a jail term of up to 10 years, a maximum fine of S$500,000 or both.