SINGAPORE: Two “self-radicalized” Singaporeans, previously detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), were released in July 2023, as disclosed by The Internal Security Department (ISD) on Thursday (30 Nov).
ISD in a statement revealed that the two Singaporeans, Suderman Samikin, 51, and Mustafa Sultan Ali, 60, have shown “good progress in their rehabilitation”, prompting their release as they no longer pose a security threat warranting preventive detention.
Both individuals have been placed under restriction orders, imposing limitations on their movements and internet access.
According to ISD, Suderman, a delivery assistant, was initially detained under the ISA in July 2019.
“He was a staunch supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had planned to travel to Syria to join the group,” said ISD.
According to an MHA statement in 2019, his radicalization traces back to 2013 when exposure to lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an Al-Qaeda ideologue, and propaganda from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) influenced him.
By 2014, Suderman embraced ISIS’ violent ideology, expressing readiness to join the terror group in Syria.
His interactions with pro-ISIS elements on Facebook included offering financial support to a contact planning armed violence in Syria.
Despite a brief incarceration for drug consumption in July 2014, Suderman remained resolute about joining ISIS, leading to his re-arrest under the ISA upon release.
Mustafa, the other Singaporean released, was detained under the ISA in July 2015 after being arrested in Turkey and deported.
He gained notoriety as the first Singaporean arrested abroad for attempting to join ISIS.
His departure from Singapore in May 2015 to a neighbouring country, followed by a flight to Turkey, aimed to conceal his movements.
However, Turkish authorities apprehended him as he planned to enter Syria through their border.
Investigations revealed Mustafa’s deep radicalization through online exposure to ISIS’ extremist ideology and other radical figures.
He expressed willingness to execute ISIS-directed terrorist attacks against Western establishments in Singapore.
ISD lifted restriction orders for four Singaporeans between March and September 2023
Additionally, ISD confirmed the expiration of restriction orders for four other individuals between March and September 2023, as they also exhibited substantial progress in rehabilitation.
These individuals include:
Mohamed Fairuz Junaidi, 43, who supported ISIS and contemplated travelling to Syria;
Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 28, an ISIS supporter ready for armed combat training;
Amiruddin Sawir, 60, was involved in armed conflict in Yemen during his 2013-2015 studies;
and Abu Thalha Samad, 32, a former Jemaah Islamiyah member detained in September 2017 following deportation from a regional country.
Critique surrounding the ISD enforcement of Singapore’s ISA
The role of the ISD, an agency overseen directly by the Prime Minister and primarily responsible for administering ISA, is not without controversy.
Following the 1989 Hat Yai agreement’s influence and a change in geopolitical threats, the ISD redirected its attention from communist threats to combating Islamic extremism and potential acts of terrorism, a shift underlined by events such as the Jakarta Stock Exchange bombing and the 9/11 attacks.
In alignment with this trend, the Singapore government has rebranded the ISA as a crucial tool in combating religious extremism and terrorism, as portrayed by Murray Hunter in his article in July 2021.
In fact, under the Internal Security Act, the Singapore government holds extensive authority for arbitrary arrest and detention, executed through executive orders.
According to Section 8 of the ISA, individuals deemed a significant risk to Singapore’s national security can be detained for up to two years without trial, with the possibility of indefinite renewals.
The ISA primarily serves as a tool for preventive detention, enabling the confinement of suspected threats without punitive measures. Initial detention for up to 30 days can be initiated solely based on the authorization of a police superintendent, without the requirement of a warrant or court order.
According to Hunter, the ISA is portrayed as safeguarding a peaceful society, with recent detentions of alleged ‘Islamists’ reaching the highest recorded numbers since the 1960s.
Media reports suggest that those detained are often individuals on the path to radicalization, engaging in activities such as fundraising, donating, or providing assistance.
For instance, the case of Mohamed Fairuz Junaidi, 39, who was apprehended for considering travel to Syria to join ISIS, and Rasidah Mazaln, 62, reportedly communicating with individuals suspected of extremist ties.
However, Hunter highlights the lack of an official definition for radicalization within the ISA process, rendering its criteria for detention highly subjective, particularly considering the diverse range of ideas and beliefs within Islam.
Hunter’s article also mentioned that a past detainee revealed that “If you reject the authorities’ accusations, they will keep detaining you.”
According to the detainee’s testimony, the ISD aims to eliminate threats to the government’s morality, ideology, and ideas.
“By admitting you are a communist or terrorist, the ISD and government can claim the arrests and detention under ISA was justified, and more importantly, discredit any arguments and activism that the accused was involved in.”
“Refusal to confess means they can’t justify the arrest and can’t afford to allow the ex-detainee to talk about the injustice, after release, ” the detainee told Asia Sentinel.
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