Construction worker jailed in Singapore after transferring cash to benefit overseas terrorist group

Ahmed Faysal was sentenced to two years and eight months' jail. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE - A Bangladeshi construction worker in Singapore was sentenced to two years and eight months' jail after he transferred nearly $900 in 2020 to help finance a dangerous terrorist organisation overseas.

Ahmed Faysal, 27, made 15 fund transfers in all through various online platforms to Medical Aid Syria (MAS) and Ramadan 2020 Emergency Homes for Syria.

He did so despite having reasonable grounds to believe that the monies would, in part, benefit terrorist group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is based in Syria.

Ahmed was sentenced on Monday (Feb 21) after he pleaded guilty to five charges under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act.

In an earlier statement, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that Ahmed started working as a construction worker here in 2017 and became radicalised the following year.

He initially supported militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had even considered going to Syria to help it establish an Islamic caliphate.

But he lacked the financial means to travel there.

Deputy public prosecutors Cheng Yuxi and Esther Wong said in court documents that Ahmed became disillusioned with ISIS in mid-2019 after watching videos of Muslim scholars condemning the group for killing innocent civilians in the process of achieving an Islamic caliphate.

"He began supporting HTS instead, on his understanding that HTS was less brutal than ISIS in achieving its goals," they added.

At around the same time, Ahmed also started following the Facebook page of one Dr Shajul Islam, a medical doctor with Bangladeshi roots said to have worked in a hospital in Idlib, Syria, which was run by MAS.

The court heard that he had published posts supporting the overthrowing of the Syrian government by violent means and voiced his support for HTS members in achieving that objective.

Dr Shajul had live-streamed videos on his Facebook page to appeal for monies as part of a fundraising campaign for the hospital run by MAS.

He also publicised that the hospital treated injured HTS soldiers.

Ahmed was then influenced by the contents of Dr Shajul's Facebook page to send money to MAS.

The prosecutors said: "Despite sending monies multiple times, the accused did not know or find out how the monies he sent to MAS would specifically be used.

"At the time... he was aware that the monies could be used to benefit HTS soldiers in Idlib."

The following year, Ahmed came across an online fund-raising campaign named Ramadan 2020 Emergency Homes for Syria.

It was formed to purportedly build emergency homes in Syria for people whose homes were destroyed.

The campaign was run by a British-registered charity called One Nation.

Despite not knowing how the funds would specifically be used, he sent monies to One Nation on multiple occasions intending to benefit the people in Idlib, which included HTS soldiers.

Court documents do not state how his offences came to light but when he was arrested, he had seven knives in his possession.

Some of the knives and blades found on Ahmed Faysal on Nov 2, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

The prosecutors added: "The accused stated that he bought these weapons to be 'ready for jihad'. He did not intend to use the weapons in Singapore because he wanted to remain out of trouble and support his family by working here.

"However, he stated that he would only use the knives in Bangladesh if Hindus attacked Muslims and the government took no action against the perpetrators."

MHA said in its statement that Ahmed was arrested under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities and issued an Order of Detention.

The order will be cancelled now that he has been convicted and sentenced.

To prevent him from spreading his radical ideas to other inmates, he will be held separately while serving his prison sentence, the ministry added.

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