Individuals detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) “have no opportunity to respond” to the allegations made against them, said civil rights group Function 8 director Teo Soh Lung.
Ms Teo made her statement in response to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s statement on 26-year-old Bangladeshi construction worker Ahmed Faysal, who was arrested and detained last month under the ISA for allegedly “imbibing online propaganda” on the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
In mid-2019, according to MHA, MR Faysal “shifted his allegiance to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria”.
“He donated funds to a Syria-based organisation on the understanding that his donations would benefit the HTS’ cause in Syria.
“Faysal also actively shared propaganda promoting armed violence on social media using accounts created under fictitious names.
“Apart from ISIS and HTS, Faysal had also expressed support for other terrorist groups including the Al-Qaeda and Somalia-based Al-Shabaab,” said MHA.
Highlighting that ISA detainees are in prison, “oblivious of all that is happening outside the four walls”, Ms Teo said: “It is only decades after their release, that one or two of them may write about their imprisonment and rebut the allegations made against them.”
She also highlighted that while MHA’s press release on Mr Faysal detailed how he harboured beliefs in “armed jihad”, purportedly going as far as watching “firearms-related videos online” and being ready to “travel to Kashmir to fight against the perceived enemies of Islam”, MHA stated that investigations so far have not “surfaced any indication that Faysal intended to carry out any acts of violence in Singapore”.
She added that keeping abreast with “what is happening in the Muslim world is not a crime”.
Low-income Bangladeshis workers, on top of suffering the effects of the pandemic, “may be confined to the dormitories are also suffering from boredom”, with “only their cell phones to entertain them”.
Ms Teo questioned why the Government had taken “such harsh action” against Mr Faysal and 16 other workers.
According to MHA’s statement, 15 Bangladeshi workers and one Malaysian were repatriated for alleged radicalisation.
The Bangladeshi workers were accused of making “social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest” in the wake of the recent terror attacks in France, while the Malaysian had purportedly “harboured the intention to travel to Syria or Palestine to partake in armed violence”.
Ms Teo said that “we do not have any information as to whether they were arrested under the ISA or under any other laws”.
“We also do not have information about the 14 Singaporeans who were investigated,” she stressed.
“I think it is important for us to read press releases from the MHA and for that matter, any government department carefully.
“To regurgitate press releases in its entirety without investigation as the mainstream media does is irresponsible reporting,” said Ms Teo.
Ms Teo herself is a former ISA detainee in the 1987 Operation Spectrum. The individuals arrested and detained under Operation Spectrum were accused of planning a “Marxist conspiracy” to overthrow the People’s Action Party government at the time.
The detainees in Operation Spectrum comprised mostly of English-educated individuals, some of whom were Catholic lay workers, social workers, overseas-educated graduates, theatre practitioners and professionals.