Malaysian authorities on Friday filed an additional charge of possession of terrorist propaganda material against a restaurant worker who had been arrested at an airport in May as he was about to leave for Egypt to allegedly carry out terrorist acts, police said.
Hafiz Othman, 42, who has been detained since his arrest, did not enter a plea during his arraignment at the Ipoh Sessions Court in Perak state, according to a police statement distributed to reporters.
“The charge has been read and the accused nodded his understanding of the charge,” the statement said.
Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, director of the police’s anti-terrorism division, told BenarNews that authorities raided Hafiz’s home in Perak state on May 17 and found four publications associated with the Islamic State (IS). The raid took place a day after Hafiz was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Cairo.
Hafiz could be sentenced to seven years in prison or face fines if found guilty of the charge of possession of “items associated with terrorist groups or terrorist acts.”
Egypt has been battling the IS affiliate Wilayat Sinai and other extremist groups in the North Sinai province since 2011, in an insurgency campaign that intensified after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in a 2013 coup.
On May 30, Malaysian authorities also charged Hafiz at the Sessions Court in Selangor state for allegedly violating a section of the Penal Code that prohibits travel “from Malaysia for the commission of terrorist acts in a foreign country.” The charge carries a prison term of up to 30 years.
Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation of 33 million people, faces threats from local IS sympathizers and regional militant groups, including IS-linked groups operating in the Southern Philippines such as the Abu Sayyaf, whose suspected members had been arrested during police crackdowns in Sabah in recent months.
Since January 2018, Malaysian authorities have arrested more than 450 people linked to alleged terror activities. But dozens of those suspects have been freed, according to government figures compiled by BenarNews.
The nation’s first terror attack took place on June 26, 2016, when a grenade blast injured eight patrons at the Movida nightclub in Selangor’s Puchong town, about eight miles from Kuala Lumpur. It was the only successful IS-linked attack in Malaysia, authorities said.