Malaysia: IS-Linked Movida Nightclub Attackers Sentenced to 25 Years

Ray Sherman
2017.03.29
Kuala Lumpur
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170329-movida-620.jpg Police escort Wahyudin Karjono (front) and Jonius Indie from the Petaling Jaya Court following an earlier guilty plea, July 25, 2016.
Fahirul N. Ramli/BenarNews

A Malaysian court Wednesday sentenced two men to 25 years each in prison for carrying out a grenade attack at a Kuala Lumpur area nightclub last year in the first terrorist act in Malaysia claimed by Islamic State.

The defendants were the only suspects to be charged and convicted for the June 2016 attack that injured eight people at the Movida nightclub in Puchong, a suburb of the Malaysian capital.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court also sentenced imam Wahyudin Karjono, 21, and Jonius Indie, (alias Jahali), 24, to concurrent 10-year sentences on charges of giving support to a terrorist group. The sentences are retroactive to the dates of their arrests – June 29, 2016, for Imam, and July 1, 2016, for Jonius.

On Wednesday, the second day of their trial, Wahyudin and Jonius pleaded guilty after victims of the attack testified against them.

In pronouncing the sentences, High Court Judicial Commissioner Nordin Hassan said both men were involved in a serious act because they admitted to throwing a bomb in a public place.

“The bombing of the Movida night spot was the most serious terror-related crime in the country,” the judge said.

“Your acts have brought chaos to Malaysia. The aim of the court’s deterrent sentencing today is to send out a message to people out there, including your comrades who are continuing their terror activities.”

Public Prosecutor Saiful Edris Zainuddin asked the court to impose tough sentences, pointing out that both had changed their pleas more than once.

“Both initially pleaded guilty when charged in July last year, and then had sought a trial. And today, they have decided to plead guilty again,” he said, asking for their prison terms to run consecutively, meaning they would have to serve 35 years.

Defense attorneys Wan Azwan Aiman Wan Fakhruddin and P.A. Sharon sought lenient sentences, stating that both defendants had expressed regret for their actions and repented. The attorneys said they should be given second chances.

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the chief of the Malaysian’s police counter-terrorist special branch, welcomed the court’s decision.

“The sentence delivered by the judge can be used as a deterrent and a message to the public or anyone who has the intention of joining IS or wanting to aid the terrorist group,” he told BenarNews.

SOSMA: ‘Not detention without trial’

The attack on June 28, 2016, occurred around 2 a.m. as nightclub patrons were watching a football match on television. The two defendants were charged with throwing a grenade at the nightclub from their motorbike.

Police have alleged that Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a Malaysian member of IS based in Syria, orchestrated the attack in Puchong.

On the day of the attack, Wanndy posted a message on Facebook claiming that members of the extremist group were responsible for it.

“They were receiving instructions directly from IS militant Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi from Syria,” Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said at the time.

Since then, Malaysian counter-terrorism officers have made a series of arrests under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), which allows police to hold suspects for 28 days without charges.

“The sentencing today also shows that SOSMA is not detention without trial. Many still think that SOSMA is used to detain suspected terrorist without trial,” Ayob told BenarNews. “This is to show that any form of denial regarding possession of material, documents or how their accounts were used to fund terrorists can no longer be accepted.”

Just over a month after the Movida attack, news surfaced that police had disrupted an IS plot to launch terrorist attacks around Malaysia’s Independence Day celebrations.

“They were planning to launch attacks at an entertainment center in Kuala Lumpur, a Hindu temple in Batu Caves, Selangor, and on a police station or any policeman by using hand grenades or firearms on the eve of Merdeka (Independence Day) 2016,” Khalid announced then, adding that police had arrested three alleged members of an IS cell.

More recently, Malaysian police announced that they had foiled a plot by four Yemeni Houthi rebels – who are in custody – to attack Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz al-Saud and his entourage during a royal visit to Malaysia at the end of February. Houthis are Iranian-backed insurgents fighting Saudi-aligned forces in Yemen.

Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have arrested 294 people suspected of having links to IS links, of whom 66 have since been freed, according to the latest figures obtained by BenarNews.

Anis Natasha contributed to this report.

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