2 maids jailed for terrorism financing offences; one gave the largest amount so far

SINGAPORE - Two Indonesian maids were jailed on Wednesday (Feb 12) after pleading guilty to terrorism financing offences.

The separate district court cases, under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, involved Turmini, 31, and Retno Hernayani, 37.

Turmini was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail for her role in remitting cash totalling $1,216.73 to a man in Indonesia who supported terrorist group ISIS.

Retno's jail term is 1½ years. She had collected $100 in donations from her friends in Singapore and added $40 from her own pocket before remitting the monies to her fiance, Fikri Zulfikar, a known supporter of terrorist entities.

TURMINI'S CASE

Turmini. who goes by one name, is from a village in Cilacap in Central Java and arrived in Singapore in 2012 to be a domestic worker.

On Wednesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo told District Judge Christopher Tan that the $1,216.73 she had donated for terrorism financing is hitherto the largest amount before the courts.

The donations were made through her unsuspecting employer, who was duped into remitting the monies into a bank account belonging to a man called Edi Siswanto, who supported the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its Indonesia-based affiliated group, the Jemaah Anshaut Daulah (JAD).

The employer had thought it was a joint bank account belonging to Turmini's mother and brother, the court heard.

DPP Khoo said cash was remitted on five occasions, "which was the most number of occasions any offender has donated to terrorism".

The maid pleaded guilty to three charges involving more than $800. Two other similar charges linked to the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

 
 
 

The court heard from DPP Tan Hsiao Tien that Turmini met Edi, whom she also knew as "Zubair", in 2018 via Facebook.

He was a member of a purported religious charity called Aseer Cruee Centre and told her that if she wanted to go to heaven, she must support organisations such as ISIS and JAD that were "trying to uphold Islamic law" .

Later that year, she befriended on Facebook one Rozaliany Rozz, who asked her to download messaging app Telegram to learn more about ISIS.

DPP Tan said Turmini was exposed to many articles on ISIS and JAD on Telegram. She also joined at least four different Telegram channels and one Telegram group, in which the participants were all supporters of ISIS and JAD.

"Articles and posts about these organisations were shared among the members of the group," DPP Tan added.

From 2018 until the middle of last year, she chatted with Edi, who was in Indonesia, almost daily on WhatsApp and their conversation topics included ISIS-related matters.

The court heard that as part of an arrangement, Turmini's entire salary was held by her employer for safekeeping.

Her employer would help her remit money to her family in Indonesia whenever she needed to do it.

On three occasions, between September 2018 and January last year, Turmini asked her boss to remit cash to Edi's bank account.

It was not mentioned in court how her offences came to light but she was arrested on Aug 22 last year.

Her lawyer, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, asked for a one-year jail term, saying Turmini had been "easily influenced" to support the terrorist organisations owing to her "shallow knowledge and exposure to the real teachings of the Islamic religion".

He also told Judge Tan that after serving her sentence, she plans to enrol in a mainstream religious school in Indonesia to "learn more about the true teachings of the religion".

RETNO'S CASE

Retno, who is from a village in Lampung, Sumatra, came to work in Singapore in 2006.

 
 
 

On Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to two charges .

In 2012, she befriended a fellow Indonesian called Tuning Ambarwati while they were in an MRT train. Two years later, Retno found out about ISIS after reading Tuning's Facebook posts on the group.

Initially, she did not express any interest in ISIS and had some doubts its legitimacy, DPP Cheng Yuxi said.

"However, some time in or around 2018, the accused had a change of heart after she consistently read Tuning's Facebook posts about the plight of the women and children in Syria who were jailed or bombed.

"The accused then began supporting ISIS because she believed that the battles of ISIS are in the name of Islam against a coalition of other countries - including the United States of America - and are likely to be legitimate."

Around April 2018, Tuning introduced her to Fikri, an ISIS sympathiser who wanted to join the group in Syria.

According to Retno, Fikri later became her fiance and she expressed her desire to join him in Syria.

On March 10 last year, she met three other Indonesian maids in Paya Lebar. The trio, all aged 33, are Anindia Afiyantari, Yulistika and Nurhasanah. During the meeting, the women agreed to donate to the Aseer Cruee Centre to help the families of JAD members who had died or were in prison.

They also wanted to support JAD's activities, which included violent causes.

All contributed cash and Retno remitted the monies to Fikri in Indonesia.

Retno was arrested on Aug 20 last year.

The case involving Anindia is still pending, while Tuning, Yulistika and Nurhasanah left Singapore last year before investigations started.

In mitigation, Mr Muzammil urged Judge Tan to sentence Retno to a year's jail.

He said: "Retno now realises that Fikri had falsely preached the beliefs and teachings of the Islamic faith which does not promote the killing of innocent people, be they Muslims or non-Muslims."

For each charge of the offence under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, offenders can be jailed up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.