A Malaysian judge on Monday acquitted two Malaysian air force officers and an Indonesian national of plotting with an Islamic State fighter and his son to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak and other top officials in 2015.
Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Ab Karim Ab Rahman found Nor Azmi Jalani, 28, Mohd Yusri Mohamed Yusof, 29, and Indonesian Ali Saifuddin, 30, not guilty based on discrepancies in their testimonies and that of main witness Abu Daud Murad, who is serving a 12-year sentence for his role in the plot.
“Abu Daud and the three had admitted to being in a meeting, planning for terrorism acts like kidnapping politicians to exchange for [security act] detainees, stealing firearms and going to Syria to fight. In their sworn statements, the three men admitted attending the meeting but did not plan on committing the offenses,” the judge said.
“The statement from key witness Abu Daud does not tally with Ali, Nor Azmi and Mohd Yusri whose statements were consistent with each other. This has raised doubts in the prosecution.”
The judge however approved a request they remain detained under Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) while prosecutors appeal the ruling.
The acquittals were welcomed by family members and by Ali’s lawyer, Syahredzan Johan.
“Although [the judge] said the key witness has high credibility, after listening to the trio, their statement was stronger,” he told BenarNews.
Syria, Afghanistan, Sulawesi
The three men had been charged with promoting and supporting terrorist activities at a house in Pendang, Kedah, between Jan. 30 and April 5, 2015. Three other men were also arrested in connection with the plot.
Two of them – Abu Daud Murad and his father, Murad Halimmuddin Hassan –pleaded guilty in 2015 and were sent to prison, where the older man died of an illness last year.
The elder Murad, a former Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM) member, spent about five months fighting in Syria in 2014, and had previously been involved in conflicts in Afghanistan and Sulawesi, according to media reports at the time of his sentencing.
A sixth suspect, Hadharami Hashim, a religious school assistant from Kedah, was freed by the court for lack of evidence.
A counter-terrorism officer escorts Azudin Mahmud, whose head is covered, to the Kulim Magistrate Court to face a charge of financing terrorism, June 18, 2017. (Fairuz Mazlan/BenarNews)
Terrorism financing charges
The acquittal occurred a day after three men from the same northern state of Kedah were charged with sending money to Malaysian IS members in Syria.
Azudin Mahmud, 54, was charged in Kulim magistrate court with funding former top Malaysian IS recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, who was killed in Syria two months ago.
Azudin allowed 3,500 ringgit (U.S. $818) to be deposited into his bank account under the assumption that some or the entire amount would be used by Wanndy to fund his terror activities, prosecutors charged.
Meanwhile, in Sungai Petani magistrate court, similar charges were filed against Muhammad Hassan Syauqi Omar, 23, and Mohd Shaiful Mohd Jaafar, 31.
Hassan was charged with providing 100 ringgit ($23.37) and 200 ringgit ($46.75) to Muhammad Fuhdail Omar, identified as a Malaysian IS member fighting in Syria. He was also charged with providing 2,000 ringgit ($467) to alleged Malaysian IS member Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin,
All three fund transfers occurred between April 28 and May 1, 2015, at a house in Sungai Petani, prosecutors alleged.
Mohd Shaiful, meanwhile, provided 890 ringgit ($208) to Hassan on April 12, 2015, for use in a terrorist act, authorities said.
Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have arrested 310 people suspected of having links to IS, of whom 66 have since been freed, according to government figures compiled by BenarNews.
Additionally, 31 Malaysian militants have been killed while fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq, while 56 others are believed to be fighting in those countries, according to Malaysia’s top counter-terrorism official Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.
Counter-terrorism officers lead Muhammad Hassan Syauqi Omar (front in white) and Mohd Saiful Jaafar after they were charged in Sungai Petani Magistrate’s Court, June 18, 2017. (Fairuz Mazlan/BenarNews)