SINGAPORE, Feb 14 — The self-radicalised man who was deported from Singapore early this month had previously come under the Malaysian authorities’ radar due to several posts on his blog, including on the country’s royalty, Malaysian Member of Parliament Chua Tian Chang told TODAY.
Malaysian Muhammad Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil was probed under the Sedition Act in March 2011 by the police and officials from Internet regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) over his postings on his personal blog, hanief.blogspot.com.
Chua, popularly known as Tian Chua, was approached by Hanief’s father for help back then.
It is not known whether the Malaysian authorities took any action against Hanief after that, but a check by TODAY showed that the blog is no longer accessible by the public.
Chua said after the incident, Hanief got a job in Singapore and he did not hear anything about the 33-year-old until news broke last week of his deportation from the Republic.
Hanief — who worked as a driver for an airfreight company and had access to the Changi Airfreight Centre, a restricted area — was arrested under Singapore’s Internal Security Act in January before his deportation.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said he had been going online since 2008 to peruse the teachings by foreign extremist preachers and became convinced that he should travel to Syria or Palestine to take part in the armed conflict.
He was prepared to join any group there, including the Islamic State, Free Syrian Army, or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The Malaysian police have taken Hanief into custody, and he is being detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 for further investigation.
Since then, Chua has spoken to Hanief’s father a couple of times, the last being on Sunday (February 11).
“I expressed my concerns and advised him to get a lawyer for the son but until now, the family has yet to do so,” Tian said in a phone interview yesterday (February 13).
“They seem to have faith that the government will release him as they believe he has not committed any crime.”
Citing privacy, the family is reluctant to divulge more details, said Chua, although the father says he has visited Hanief twice since his incarceration.
Hanief’s previous run-in with the law was over several stories and pictures on his blog, which reportedly included at least one that commented on allegations of sexual misconduct of a royal and a separate post allegedly showing a doctored picture of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sitting next to model Kavita Kaur.
His home was raided by the police and MCMC officials close to midnight on March 18 2011, and his computers were seized.
Hanief was brought to the Sentul police station — which is in Chua’s Batu constituency in Kuala Lumpur — for questioning.
Hanief’s father then informed Chua, who immediately posted the news on his Twitter account.
Chua also questioned the nature of the raid and argued that there had been no warrant of arrest issued for Hanief.
Hanief later told online news portal Malaysiakini that “someone reported me for something that caused them to sakit hati (feel hurt)”.
“According to the (MCMC) investigation officers, if somebody feels sakit hati with a picture or posting on the Internet, they can report to MCMC.”
Hanief’s lawyer at that time, N. Surendran, also told Malaysiakini that Hanief was investigated by MCMC over “an alleged blog posting that supposedly disrespected and insulted the Sultan”.
Surendran had no recollection of Hanief or his role in the case when contacted by TODAY.
Although Chua has not heard from Hanief since the case, the man’s father had kept in touch with the Opposition lawmaker.
Every now and then, the elderly man, who is believed to be a retiree, will forward to Chua text messages on Malaysian current affairs and political issues.
Recollecting his impression of Hanief, Chua said he was a “harmless kid” who was “passionate” about issues affecting Malaysia.
“To me, it is quite natural for young people to be fiery and passionate over certain issues but I certainly don’t believe he can plot a terror attack,” he said. ― TODAY