Three Singaporean Muslims jailed for aiding Islamist suspect

SINGAPORE, November 22, 2010 (AFP) - Three relatives of an alleged Singaporean Islamist extremist have been jailed for helping him flee to Malaysia disguised as a woman after he escaped from detention in 2008, the government said Monday.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told parliament that Mas Selamat bin Kastari, who was eventually recaptured in Malaysia, was sheltered by the trio for two days in their flat amid a massive manhunt across the city-state.

Mas Selamat's brother Asmom, sister-in-law Aisah and niece Nur Aini Binte Asmom were arrested earlier this month after an investigation and pleaded guilty to knowingly sheltering a "prisoner of state," Shanmugam said.

Mas Selamat was made up as a woman, given clothes and a veil and provided with money, medicine, a backpack, an illumination stick, airtight re-sealable plastic bags and an electronic transport fare card, the minister said.

"For their actions, Nur Aini, Asmom and Aisah have been sentenced to 18 months, 12 months and three months of imprisonment respectively," Shanmugam said.

Nur Aini, who was being trained to be a teacher, received the heaviest sentence as she provided the most help to her uncle, the minister said.

Mas Selamat allegedly led the Singapore wing of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and was accused of plotting to crash a hijacked airliner into Changi Airport in an operation similar to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

He fled Singapore in December 2001 after a security operation against the JI but was arrested in Indonesia in 2006 and handed back.

Mas Selamat's 2008 escape triggered a sweeping review of security measures in Singapore but Shanmugam said that exactly how he escaped to Malaysia is still under investigation.

The minister said the family's decision to shelter Mas Selamat and provide him with material support that enabled him to escape to Malaysia was "very wrong, illegal and had grave security implications."

"Harbouring Mas Selamat and assisting him to escape from Singapore placed Singapore and Singaporean security in serious jeopardy as Mas Selamat would thereby be able to resume his terrorist activities of attacking Singapore."

The JI is believed to have links to Al-Qaeda and is blamed for a string of attacks in the region, including the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed, many of them foreign tourists.