A Malaysian court convicted a former taxi driver Tuesday on three counts of supporting the Islamic State (IS) terror group, including financially aiding recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi in 2016, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Sofian Abdul Razak ruled that Nor Nizam Panijan, 40, had failed to raise reasonable doubt.
“Let it be recorded that the court found the accused guilty on all three charges,” the judge said in handing down the decision.
Wearing a purple shirt and white Muslim skullcap, Nor Nizam appeared grim and silent as the judge read out the verdict – a clear change from his cheerful demeanor earlier when his wife and two daughters greeted him at the court.
In the first charge, Nor Nizam was found guilty of providing support to a terrorist group by pledging allegiance to IS between March 30 and April 2, 2016, through a Gagak Hitam (Black Crow) chat group on Telegram that involved Wanndy.
Gagak Hitam members are believed to be responsible for the first terrorist attack claimed by IS on Malaysian soil. Wanndy, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2017, masterminded the grenade blast that injured eight patrons at a Kuala Lumpur area nightclub in June 2016 and took credit via social media.
Nor Nizam argued that he was not aware of the gravity of his pledge of loyalty and claimed to have declared it to not be removed from the group because he was interested in following events in Syria.
“According to the accused, he did not fully understand the meaning of the pledge and assumed it was a support to Islam in general and not for terrorism,” Sofian said as he recounted Nor Nizam’s arguments before ruling that the defense was not believable.
“The accused not only declared allegiance but also contributed funds, and asked questions about Syria and even asked about how to go about migrating to the country,” the judge said. “Therefore the court agrees that the accused’s arguments were merely denials.”
For the second charge, Nor Nizam was found guilty of willfully transferring 70 ringgit (U.S. $16.70) and 20 ringgit ($4.75) to two bank accounts owned by Mohd Haniffa Syedul Akbar and Bukhori Che Noor respectively, who served as proxies to Wanndy.
Defense attorney Syahredzan Johan argued that his client thought he was donating money to war victims in Syria and only Mohd. Haniffa and Bukhori knew it was being channeled to IS.
The judge cited evidence that Wanndy himself had told the group to contribute money to him because the cell’s finances were running dry.
“This month’s contributions have all burned up … these contributions are for our use, not to be saved. This is for good, God will reward greatly,” Sofian said, reading from a chat transcript.
“Therefore it is clear that everyone in the group agreed and were demanded to make contributions to the cause,” he added.
Under the third charge Nor Nizam was found guilty of storing 21 videos and two photos containing IS-related materials on his smartphone.
Justice Sofian said this charge was the simplest for the prosecution to prove.
“In my view, it is difficult for the accused to prove the photos and videos are not in his phone. No clear explanation by the accused can deny that,” he said.
Syahredzan asked the court to give leniency and consider this as Nor Nizam’s first offense.
“He is also employed as a taxi driver, earning 3,000 to 4,000 ringgit ($716 to $954) monthly and has two daughters,” Syahredzan said.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Azlina Rasdi, meanwhile, asked for a harsh sentence to serve as a deterrence for others.
Sofian then sentenced Nor Nizam to 10 years for the first offense, six for the second and three for the third to run concurrently from his August 2016 arrest.
In April, the Royal Malaysia Police said they had arrested 26 people suspected of involvement in terrorist or IS-related activities in the country to date. Of those taken into custody, five were Malaysians, 13 were from the Philippines, six were from Egypt, one from Pakistani and one from Tunisia.
Earlier this month, police reported arresting seven IS-linked militants who allegedly planned attacks and assassinations to avenge the death of a Malay Muslim firefighter during a riot at a local Hindu temple last November.