Singapore Sends Four Bangladeshis to Jail on Terror Charges

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.07.12
Dhaka
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160712-BD-SG-motorcade-1000.jpg Armored vehicles used to transport four Bangladeshis who have been convicted on terror-related charges are seen outside the State Court in Singapore, July 12, 2016.
AFP

A Singaporean court Tuesday sentenced four Islamic State-linked Bangladeshis to between two and five years in prison for financing terrorist plots back home, according to news reports from the city-state.

The four construction workers from Bangladesh are the first convicts to go to prison in Singapore under its terrorism-financing law.

“Unless the two governments decide otherwise, the convicted persons will complete their sentences in Singapore because they violated Singaporean law,” Masudur Rahman, spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.

Singapore’s State Court convicted them on May 31 when they pleaded guilty to charges of raising money for plots to overthrow the Bangladeshi government as well as target Bangladeshi officials for assassination, according to information posted online by the Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs.

The four were among eight Bangladeshis arrested in Singapore in April under its Internal Security Act, and who were suspected of being members of a militant group calling itself Islamic State Bangladesh (ISB), the ministry said.

According to the state-owned Straits-Times newspaper, the four men sentenced to prison on Tuesday are Mizanur Rahman, 31; Rubel Miah, 26; Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, 31; and Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader, 29.

Mizanur Rahman was the alleged ringleader of ISB, which was established in Singapore and was made up of Bangladeshis who had intended to join Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, the Singaporean home ministry said. But because they encountered obstacles in their plans to travel to the Middle East, members shifted their focus to fomenting a terror plot on Bangladeshi soil, it said.

Authorities in Bangladesh have rejected claims that Islamic State is present in their country. However, IS has claimed several killings of religious minorities and foreigners in the South Asian nation dating to last year, and the group has also said it was responsible for an attack at a café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter that killed 20 hostages and two police officers on July 1.

Rahman, who was responsible for radicalizing the other Bangladeshis, got a five-year sentence while Miah and Sowdager, who served as the group’s treasurers, each received sentences of two and a half years, Channel NewsAsia of Singapore reported. Hawlader, who donated S$300 (U.S. $223) to the ISB cause, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Overall, the group raised a total of only about S$1,360 (U.S. $1,010) for their cause, Channel NewsAsia quoted Singaporean prosecutors as saying.

“I wanted to learn my religion but they [radicals] show me the wrong way, the wrong activities,” Mizanur told the court on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “My intentions were wrong … I’m very remorseful.”

Among the four other suspected ISB members who are in Singaporean custody, Zzaman Daulat, 34, and Mamun Leakot Ali, 29, have pleaded not guilty, and Sohag Ibrahim and Islam Shariful, both 27, have not yet been charged, Channel NewsAsia said.

The arrests of the eight came three months after Singapore announced in January that it had sent 26 Bangladeshis, who were arrested on charges of links to IS or al-Qaeda, back to Bangladesh.

‘Unthinkable’

The Bangladeshis who were expelled from Singapore were among a multitude of people from Bangladesh who travel abroad in search of unskilled and low-paying jobs in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

“Extremism among migrant workers was unthinkable until Singapore deported 26 Bangladeshis on charges of terrorism. Surely this is an infiltration by the extremists. This is not the real picture of Bangladesh’s migration regime,” Saiful Haque, who heads the Warbe Development Foundation, a Bangladeshi advocacy group for migrants, told BenarNews.

Remittances sent home by Bangladeshi migrants are an important piece of Bangladesh’s revenue.

“We are highly dependent on remittances from our hard-working migrants who send billions of dollars every year,” said Nazneen Ahmed, an economist who specializes in labor issues.

“I think the sector will not be affected for the bad activities of a handful of migrant workers,” she told BenarNews.

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