SINGAPORE: Singapore on Tuesday sentenced four Bangladeshis to between two and five years jail after they pleaded guilty to raising money for an alleged Islamist terror plot in their home country.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh has seen a spate of brutal attacks on secular bloggers and religious minorities recently, with gunmen killing 20 hostages — mainly foreigners — at an upmarket restaurant in the capital Dhaka earlier this month. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
District Judge Kessler Soh said in handing down the sentences that terrorism presents a “threat not just to our community but the international community at large”.
Court documents said the men contributed, collected or possessed funds for the alleged plot ranging from Sg$60 ($44) to Sg$1,360 to help fund a terror campaign in their homeland.
“Terrorism financing and any act of supporting terrorism must be roundly condemned and deterred,” the judge said.
Ringleader Rahman Mizanur, 31, was jailed for five years. Two others were each jailed for two-and-a-half years and the fourth man got two years.
The four, the first suspects to be prosecuted in Singapore under a new anti-terror law, were brought to court with their hands and feet shackled and under heavy security by members of the city’s elite Gurkha unit.
State prosecutors said the group formed an organization called the Islamic State of Bangladesh (ISB) which also planned to overthrow the Bangladeshi government “by means of an armed struggle in order to establish part of the caliphate in Bangladesh”.
Prosecutors also said that the men formed the ISB “with a view to eventually joining up with” the Islamic State group.
Group leader Mizanur had tried several times to join the IS group in Syria but could not get the required visas to Turkey or Algeria, court documents showed.
Bangladesh denies IS has made inroads in the country, blaming attacks on homegrown extremist groups.
The men’s actions, including meeting in parks to plan and recruit, “show that the offences… were premeditated and carefully planned over a period of time”, the prosecutors said.
Singapore’s interior ministry had earlier said that items seized from the men included manuals on bomb-making and how to use a 0.50 caliber sniper rifle, along with a list of Bangladesh government and military officials targeted for attack.
Most of the men had been working in the construction sector in Singapore, which depends heavily on Bangladeshi and other foreign workers.
The four defended themselves during the trial as they were unable to afford their own counsel and people accused with terrorist financing do not qualify for legal aid from the state.
They were among a second group of Bangladeshis rounded up in Singapore since 27 were arrested in late 2015, also over alleged plots in their homeland. All from the first group have since been deported.
Two from the second group have cases still pending and two others have yet to be charged but are detained under a law which allows for detention without trial.