May 27, 2016
BY Fathin Ungku and Manesha Pereira
ASINGAPORE court on Friday, May 27, charged six Bangladeshi men with terrorism financing, after detaining them last month for allegedly planning attacks in their home country.
Security was tight at the state court as three armored vehicles carrying the suspects entered the premises.
The six were among eight Bangladeshi men detained in April under Singapore's colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allows suspects to be held for lengthy periods without trial.
Five of the six said in Bengali through a court interpreter they intended to plead guilty.
The sixth, Mamun Leakot, 29, said he never contributed to funding any group's activities in Bangladesh.
"We just had an exchange of funds between ourselves,” he said after the judge asked him about a transfer of money with another of the suspects.
A prosecutor who declined to be identified said the other two were still facing detention orders but had not been charged.
Authorities said the eight met in parks and other open spaces to share radical propaganda and videos, calling themselves members of Islamic State in Bangladesh.
The detentions brought Singapore's 150,000 or more Bangladeshi migrant community into the spotlight for being one of the most marginalized Muslim communities in the wealthy city-state, according to rights groups and community leaders.
Singapore, which has not suffered a militant attack in decades, deploys extensive surveillance and is largely seen as one of the safest countries in the world. But some critics say security comes with a cost to civil liberties.
As part of the same investigation, five other Bangladeshis were deported to their home country last month and had since been arrested by the police there.
They were being investigated for possible connections with the Bangladeshi militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, authorities there said.
The latest detentions were the second group of Bangladeshis investigated by Singapore in recent months.
In January, authorities said they had arrested 27 Bangladeshi construction workers who supported Islamist groups including al Qaeda and Islamic State. All 27 were deported.
Islamist militants in Bangladesh have carried out a series of killings since early last year, with liberal bloggers and academics among their victims.
Most Bangladeshis working in Singapore are low-skilled and employed in construction and similar industries.
Additional reporting by Edgar Fu.