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Four Bangladeshi workers convicted and sentenced for financing terrorism

Four Bangladeshi workers were convicted and sentenced by a Singapore court yesterday (July 12) for financing terrorism and sentenced them to jail terms.

They were charged with providing or collecting money to fund terrorist acts in Bangladesh and had pleaded guilty on May 31.

The four convicted Bangladeshi workers are Rahman Mizanur, 31; Miah Rubel, 26; Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, 31; and Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader, 29.

Rahman was sentenced to 60 months in jail. Sohel was given 24 months while Miah and Jabath each got 30 months.

Earlier in May this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced the arrest of eight radicalised individuals under the Internal Security Act made in late March and early April, which allows for detention without trial in cases where public safety is threatened.

MHA said that the eight arrested were members of a secret group set up by Rahman in March this year called Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB). The members had intended to join ISIS as foreign fighters, but as they felt it would be difficult for them to travel to Syria, focused their plans instead on returning home to overthrow the government through the use of force.

It added that the aim was to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh and bring it under ISIS' self-declared caliphate, It also said that the members had planned to recruit other Bangladeshi nationals working here to grow their group, and had raised funds to buy firearms to carry out their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh.

MHA said the money has since been seized.

Prosecutors said the men had contributed part of their salary to buy food, arms and weapons like knives and pistols to launch attacks in Bangladesh. The amounts that was contributed ranged from 60 Singapore dollars to 1,360 Singapore dollars.

Rahman, 31, pleaded guilty and was convicted of two charges of financing terrorism by inviting group members to contribute funds and handling the money to facilitate plans.

The Bangladeshi workers are the first to be charged under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act since it was passed in 2002.

In sentencing Rahman to five years in jail, District Judge Kessler Soh emphasised that a deterrent sentence and "much stiffer punishment is warranted."

"He was the mastermind. He was the one who started this whole outfit," the judge said.

Rahman was reported to be shackled as he arrived in court. He had earlier addressed the court in English, putting forth a lengthy plea for mitigation. "I wanted to learn my religion. [My friends] showed me the wrong way, the wrong activities," Rahman said. "This is my very big mistake sir. I am very remorseful."

Media reports have said that two other men named Zzaman Daulat, 34, and Mamun Leakot Ali, 29, have denied the charges and are claiming retrial. Their trial dates have not been set.

Mamum Leakot Ali is accused of contributing $500 and collecting funds of $300 for terrorist acts. He had denied contributing money to the Islamic State in Bangladesh.

The other two Bangladeshi men who were detained in April have not been charged and will be dealt with separately, officials have said.

However when contacted, the Bangladesh Embassy in Singapore said it was not officially notified about the trial by the Singapore government, but learned about it from media reports.