Construction worker jailed in Singapore for donating money towards Syrian terrorist entity's causes
SINGAPORE: A Bangladeshi national who came to Singapore to be a construction worker supported militant groups in Syria, making multiple Facebook accounts to publish pro-jihadist posts and buying knives to be "ready for jihad".
However, he did not intend to use the weapons in Singapore, as he wanted to stay out of trouble and continue supporting his family in Bangladesh by working here.
Between February and October 2020, he made 15 fund transfers totalling about S$892 to "fund-raising campaigns" that he had grounds to believe would go to the terrorist entity Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).
Ahmed Faysal, 27, was sentenced to two years and eight months' jail on Monday (Feb 21). He pleaded guilty to five charges under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, with another 10 charges taken into consideration. This is the largest number of charges an offender has ever faced under the Act, the prosecutor said.
The court heard that Ahmed worked as a construction worker in Singapore, earning between S$900 and S$1,200 monthly.
He initially supported the Islamic State's goals to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria, first learning about jihad and the Syrian civil war on Facebook. He used multiple Facebook accounts with temporary email addresses and phone numbers and posted about jihad.
He considered going to Syria to help the Islamic State destroy the Syrian government, but did not do so as he did not have the money to travel to Syria and needed to support his family back in Bangladesh.
Ahmed became disillusioned with the Islamic State in mid-2019 after watching videos of Muslim scholars condemning the group for killing innocent civilians in their process of achieving an Islamic caliphate.
He began supporting HTS instead, as he thought HTS was "less brutal" in achieving its goals, the court heard.
HTS was another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria and to overthrow the Assad regime, the court heard. HTS currently controls the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, the prosecution said.
When Ahmed was told that HTS has detained, tortured and executed civilians, he said he nonetheless supported HTS in its fight against the Syrian government, which he believes to be oppressing Syrian Muslims.
HTS was added to the United Nations Security Council's ISIL (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida List as a terrorist entity in June 2018, and is considered a terrorist entity under Singapore's Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act.
In mid-2019, Ahmed began following a Facebook page of a doctor who claimed to have Bangladeshi roots and who was purportedly working in a hospital in Idlib, Syria.
The doctor published posts on his page supporting the violent overthrowing of the Syrian government and voicing his support for HTS members. He also livestreamed videos to appeal for money in a fund-raising campaign purportedly for a hospital that treated injured HTS soldiers.
Influenced by this content, Ahmed made 15 transfers totalling S$891.98 while having grounds to believe the money would benefit a terrorist entity.
Ahmed was found to be in possession of seven knives when he was arrested. He admitted buying multiple knives to be "ready for jihad". However, he said he did not intend to use the weapons in Singapore as he wanted to remain out of trouble and support his family back home.
He said he would use the knives only in Bangladesh, if Hindus attacked Muslims and the government took no action against the perpetrators. However, at the time of his arrest, he had not conceived any specific plans.
The prosecution sought 34 months' jail, saying terrorism financing will be met with lengthy imprisonment terms.
Terrorism is a clear and present threat to Singapore's security, said the prosecutors, and sentencing Ahmed to a deterrent sentence would mean that Singapore "continues to fulfil her duty as a member of the global community and its unending fight against terrorism".
"This is an onerous duty which cannot be taken lightly and a resoundingly severe sentence imposed on offenders who commit terrorism financing offences serves to advance both Singapore's public interests and deter like-minded persons from similar reproachable conduct," they said.