A Malaysian who fought in the Middle East for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and his son were sentenced Tuesday to 18 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, for plotting attacks on home soil, according to media reports.
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur sentenced 49-year-old Murad Halimmuddin Hassan and his 25-year-old son, Abu Daud Murad Halimmuddin, to terms retroactive to April 5, the date of their arrests in Kedah state, the Sun Daily reported.
Murad allegedly undertook a months-long IS combat tour in Syria last year, according to multiple media reports.
Judge Kamardin Hashim handed Murad two 18-year sentences on separate charges – for taking part in a criminal conspiracy to promote terrorism in the country, and for supporting terrorist activities. But the judge ruled that the defendant would serve concurrent sentences rather than a total of 36 years in prison, state-run Bernama reported.
After having earlier pled not guilty, the father and son on Tuesday changed their pleas to guilty on terrorism-related charges, according to Bernama.
"The court was told that Murad had returned from Syria last year," prosecutor Shukor Abu Bakar told AFP, noting that Murad was the spiritual leader of a group called "Fisabilillah."
The father and son "had admitted in court that they planned to kidnap politicians, raid army camps for weapons and overthrow the government," Shukor said.
Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia both are dealing with threats posed by IS recruiting people from those countries for its jihadist cause.
Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have warned that jihadists returning from tours in the Middle East with IS could bring back the group’s extremist ideology and foment terrorism at home.
In Murad’s case, he had served a stint with IS in Syria from August to December 2014, and was previously involved in conflicts in Afghanistan and Sulawesi in Indonesia, according to The Malaysian Insider.
As many as 66 Malaysians were believed to be in Iraq and Syria but police have arrested 108 people with links to IS, Bernama quoted Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying earlier this month.
Four others plead not guilty
Murad and his son were among 17 people who were arrested on April 5 on suspicion of planning bombings in Kuala Lumpur and abductions of prominent figures.
On Tuesday, four of the other suspects appeared in court alongside Murad and his son but pleaded not guilty to the charges.
"They planned to launch jihad (an armed struggle) and change the current political system which they claim is un-Islamic," the prosecutor said, according to AFP.
The Sun Daily identified the other four defendants charged with promoting terrorist acts as Nor Azmi Jalani, 28, Mohd Yusri Mohamed Yusof, 29, Hadharami Hashim, 38, and Indonesian Ali Saifuddin.
AFP reported that the four would reappear in court on Aug. 28.