SINGAPORE - The first Singaporean to be charged with terror financing admitted in his trial on Monday (Jan 13) that he had transferred funds overseas to support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Former logistics professional Imran Kassim, 36, was charged with transferring $450 through remittance company Western Union to Mohamad Alsaied Alhmidan in Turkey for his publication of ISIS propaganda.
"I do admit to making the transfer, and I did it to benefit the Islamic State," he said, using another common name for ISIS.
On an official website, the US government lists the recipient Mohamad Alsaied as a specially designated national, and says that he is linked to ISIS.
Under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, introduced in 2002 to counter terrorism financing here, anyone convicted of the offence of providing property and services for terrorist purposes may face prison time of not more than 10 years or a fine not exceeding $500,000, or face both penalties.
Imran, who was brought into court handcuffed and blindfolded and was ushered in by four men, is representing himself. The court heard that he was previously represented by a law firm, which has since discharged itself.
In court on Monday, he argued that while he made the fund transfer to ISIS, he had not broken the law as he did not recognise Singapore law and only recognised Syariah law.
Mainstream Islamic scholars say Muslims are obliged to follow the laws of the land where they live, and that ISIS and its violence are a distortion of Islamic teachings.
Imran has been detained under the Internal Security Act since August 2017 and was issued a detention order for intending to take part in armed violence overseas.
Imran was the first Singaporean here to be charged with terror financing, in April last year.
Last October, former IT professional Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman, 35, became the first Singaporean to be convicted of funding terrorism. He was sentenced to 2½ years' jail. He was charged the month before.
In Imran's case, a parallel investigation by the police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) found that he had provided the funds to aid ISIS.
"Terrorism is a transnational scourge and Singapore takes its duties as a member of the global community seriously in its unending fight against terrorism, and accordingly, terrorism financing," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Khoo and Foo Shi Hao.
Mr Khoo added that Imran had transferred the money knowing that it would benefit ISIS by "garnering more support for ISIS and raising awareness for ISIS".
The prosecution presented the court records of the transfer that took place on Oct 31, 2014, which had Imran’s handwriting and signature. It also presented Imran’s statements, which he did not take any issue with and agreed had been given voluntarily.
It closed its case on Monday morning, arguing that with the bank receipt and form, Imran’s statements to the police and his own admissions, the charge against him had been made out.
During his cross-examination of the witnesses from the prosecution, Imran asked how the police knew that the man he transferred money to was the same man on the list of terror suspects by the US, adding that more than one person could have the same name.
Imran’s family had requested to speak to him during the break right before he gave his closing submissions for defence, which District Judge Seah Chi-Ling allowed.
In open court, some of his family members had tried to convince him to say that he was supporting “charitable causes” and not violence.
But Imran refused, telling his family that Singapore and other countries have taken part in killings as well, in the war against the Islamic State.
Pleading with him, a male family member asked Imran to “think about (his) family”, to which Imran said that this has “nothing to do” with his family.
The family member also passed him a note and urged him to read it out during his submissions, saying that he needed stronger mitigation to avoid a harsh sentence.
In his closing submissions, Imran said there were “exaggerations” in how ISIS was portrayed. He also repeated his stance to not plead guilty, but added that he did want to help ISIS with the transfer of the money.
Court was adjourned with the judge to deliver his verdict on Tuesday.