Nik Muhamad Zaini Nik Hassan and Ismadi Md Nor, who pleaded guilty at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to planning a terror attack in the southern state of Johor, in police custody Sept. 28, 2018. Source: Benar News
Malaysia: Two suspected members of a terror cell linked to Islamic State (IS) have been sentenced to three years in prison for planning an attack last year in the southern state of Johor by Kuala Lumpur High Court on Friday.
Judge Azman Abdullah sentenced Nik Muhamad Zaini Nik Hassan, 37, and Ismadi Md Nor, 30, after both pleaded guilty to planning an attack on the Free Mason building near Lido beach in the city of Johor Bahru, between Dec. 11 and Jan. 31, 2017.
Azman advised the men to repent and be thankful they were arrested before the attack was committed because they could have faced death sentences.
“Don’t blame anyone but yourselves. Think positively that God loves you, as he has spared you the gallows for not being caught with firearms,” he said.
Azman then ruled they be credited for time served since their arrest on Feb. 27.
During interrogation, both said they planned the attack in response to what they claimed were atrocities by the Western world against IS. They also asserted that the building was a symbol of anti-Islamic sentiments.
The men were charged in March along with Mohammad Zaki Ibrahim, 49, who allegedly had IS video clips on his mobile phone and tablet and could face seven years in prison, if found guilty.
The three were part of a six-member terrorist cell arrested by Malaysian counter-terror officials in raids in February and March, Police Inspector General Mohamad Fuzi Harun said at the time.
Defense lawyer Sukhaimi Mashud pleaded for a minimum sentence as his clients had “merely planned the attack, but it never took place, and no weapons were found after they were arrested.”
Deputy Public Prosecutor Noor Syazwani Mohamad Sobry, on the other hand, asked for a deterrent sentence that took into account the seriousness of the offense and what he said was a rising rate of violence in the country.
Meanwhile, the alleged mastermind of the plot, whom Malaysian officials have identified as Awae Wae-Eya, has not been captured. Awae, 37, is a Thai national and former member of a southern Thailand separatist movement.
In April, Thai military officials in the Deep South released Awae from custody, saying they had determined he had no ties to IS or other militants and had no criminal record.
Malaysian police are also looking for three additional suspects linked to Awae and thought to have fled Malaysia. The others are identified as Mumaham Faizal Muhamad Hanafi, 29; his father Muhamad Hanafi Yah, 51; and Nor Farkhan Mohd Isa, 31.
Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, including 19.5 million Muslims, is one of the most developed economies in Southeast Asia.
Authorities report that they have foiled at least nine IS-related bomb plots since 2013 including one that targeted the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August 2017.
A June 2016 grenade attack that injured eight people at a nightclub in Puchong, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, was the first terrorist act on Malaysian soil claimed by IS.