By Radzi Razak
A Malaysian appellate court sentenced an Indonesian citizen and two other suspects to prison Monday after convicting them on charges of conspiring to promote terrorism, including being part of an Islamic State-linked plot to kidnap top government officials in 2015.
The Court of Appeal handed down retroactive jail terms ranging from eight to 12 years after the three-member panel last week overturned a June 2017 ruling by the High Court to acquit the defendants.
The appellate panel sided unanimously with the prosecution, which had appealed the acquittal by the lower court.
“After reviewing the evidence given by the respondents, we found that it did not cause any doubt over the prosecution’s case,” Court of Appeal Judge Vernon Ong Lam Kiat said during Monday’s courtroom proceedings.
“The prosecutors have proven the case without reasonable doubt,” Ong said.
The court sentenced Indonesian Ali Abdullah Saifuddin, 32, to a dozen years in prison, while his two Malaysian co-defendants, ex-servicemen Nor Azmi Jailani, 32, and Mohd Yusri Mohamed Yusof, 33, each were sentenced to eight-year terms. Judge Ong ordered the sentences be enforced starting from April 5, 2015, the day the three were arrested.
Lawyers for the defendants said they would appeal the ruling to the Federal Court.
The appellate court last week convicted the trio for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to promote terrorism-related activities in Malaysia between Jan. 30 and April 6, 2015.
The three were charged with a terrorism-related offense under Malaysia’s criminal code that could have led to up to 30 years in prison for each defendant. Shortly after the sentences were read out, the defendants prostrated themselves in gratitude in front of the dock, while relatives cried and embraced one another in the courtroom.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Zain Ibrahim, who prosecuted the case, had pressed for Ali, Nor Azmi, and Mohd Yusri to each be sentenced to 25 years in prison, saying the offense they committed was serious because their actions could have affected the lives of innocents.
The three were accused of having participated in a series of discussions with a son of a former Islamic State (IS) militant about plans to kidnap four senior government officials at the time, including then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, and force his administration to release detainees held under the 2012 Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
Other officials allegedly targeted in the militant plot included then-Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, then-Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and then-Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.
The son in question, Abu Daud, and his father, Murad Halimmuddin Hassan, both pleaded guilty in 2015 and were sentenced by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to 12 and 18 years, respectively, on charges of abetting and supporting terrorist acts.
The three lawyers representing Ali Saifuddin, Nor Azmi Jailani, and Mohd Yusri Mohamed Yusof had pleaded for the appellate court to consider lighter sentences for their clients, arguing the defendants did not play a main role in the alleged plot.
Meanwhile, the Royal Malaysia Police said they had arrested 26 people suspected of involvement in terrorist or IS-related activities in the country to date. Of those taken into custody, five were Malaysians, 13 were from the Philippines, six were from Egypt, one from Pakistani and one from Tunisia.
They are among nearly 500 terror suspects arrested by Malaysian police since 2013, according to figures provided by the Special Branch’s counter-terrorist wing. Out of 200 people who were charged in court between 2013 and February 2019, 175 were convicted and incarcerated while another 123 were released, police said.