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Singapore Convicts, Jails 2 Indonesian Maids Over Terrorism-Financing Charges

Tia Asmara and Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2020-02-12
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Newly arrived domestic helpers from Indonesia wait for transportation to an agency after going through a medical check in Singapore, March 6, 2012.
Newly arrived domestic helpers from Indonesia wait for transportation to an agency after going through a medical check in Singapore, March 6, 2012.
AFP

A Singapore court convicted and sentenced two Indonesian maids to prison terms Wednesday for sending money to supporters of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, an official from Indonesia’s embassy and Singaporean media said.

Defendants Turmini, 31, and Retno Hernayati, 37, pleaded guilty at the Singapore District Court to terrorism-financing charges in separate cases, an embassy spokeswoman confirmed.

“They both pleaded guilty. The next step is being discussed with their lawyers,” Ratna Lestari Harjana, an official with the embassy, which provided the defendants with consular assistance in their cases, told BenarNews.

Turmini, who goes by one name, was sentenced to three years and nine months for transferring 1,217 Singapore dollars (U.S. $878) to a man named Edi Siswanto, the Straits Times newspaper reported.

Retno received an 18-month sentence for sending 140 Singapore dollars (U.S. $101) to her fiancé, Fikri Zulfikar, the paper said. She raised the money through a combination of her own cash and donations she collected.

Edi and Fikri both allegedly supported the IS and its Indonesian affiliate, Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

Nicholas Khoo, Singapore’s deputy public prosecutor, said the money Turmini had donated was “the largest amount before the courts,” according to the Straits Times.

Khoo said cash was remitted on five occasions, “which was the most number of occasions any offender has donated to terrorism.”

Turmini and Retno were among four Indonesian domestic workers arrested by Singapore in September 2019 under the city-state’s Internal Security Act, on suspicion of being involved in terrorism-financing activities.

The other two were Anindia Afiyantari and an unidentified fourth Indonesian. This woman was found to have not been radicalized but was deported to Indonesia because she had not reported the activities of the other three to police although she was aware of them, the Singaporean home ministry said in a news release in September.

Anindia’s case is pending, the Straits Times reported.

Turmini, Retno and Anindia were radicalized in 2018 after viewing online materials linked to IS, according to the statement from the ministry.

“Their radicalization deepened after they joined multiple pro-ISIS social media chat groups and channels. They were drawn to the violent visuals disseminated on these platforms, such as ISIS’s bomb attacks and beheading videos, as well as recycled propaganda on ISIS’s past victories in the battlefield,” the ministry said then, using another acronym for IS.

The three became acquainted with each other around the time they were becoming radicalized, it said.

“Over time, they developed a network of pro-militant foreign online contacts, including ‘online boyfriends,’ who shared their pro-ISIS ideology,” the ministry said, adding that they evolved into strong supporters of JAD and “actively galvanized support online for ISIS.”

The trio’s arrest brought to 19 the number of radicalized foreign domestic workers detected in Singapore since 2015, the ministry said in September, noting that the 16 others had been repatriated after they were investigated.

An estimated 120,000 Indonesians were working as maids in Singapore as of January 2018, according to the New Paper, a local publication.

In 2017, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), a Jakarta think-tank, reported that dozens of Indonesian women working in Hong Kong had used their earnings to support IS after being recruited over the internet by the extremist group.

The report explored how dozens of Indonesian migrants in Hong Kong had become vulnerable to extremist recruitment as religious teachings and prayer groups grew alongside demand in the labor market for more nannies, domestic helpers or caretakers for the elderly.

IPAC urged Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – to work with labor recruiting agencies to prevent radicalization of migrants.

“Some of these women were drawn in by jihadi boyfriends they met online,” Nuraniyah, an IPAC analyst, said at the time the report was released.

The report identified at least 50 female radical workers in East Asia who had taken part in a variety of extremist online discussion groups, including 43 who had worked in or were working in Hong Kong, three in Taiwan and four in Singapore.

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