Singapore—A trial open to the public would not be appropriate in the case of the 16-year-old boy who planned an attack on Muslims, said Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, because it carries the risk of deeper divisions along religious lines.
On Wednesday, the Internal Security Department (ISD) announced that the youth had been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in December of last year after he was found to have made “detailed plans” and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks with a machete against Muslims at two mosques.
The teen, a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, was reportedly inspired by the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, carried out by Brenton Tarrant.
He planned to carry out his own attacks on the second anniversary of the Christchurch murders.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, Jan 28, Mr Shanmugam said the youth had been self-radicalised.
“Hate speech has real-world consequences,” he added.
After a closed-door meeting with Christian and Muslim leaders at the Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands, one of the mosques that the teen had planned on attacking, Mr Shanmugam made remarks to the media.
TODAY reports him as saying, “I think we agree that he is capable of doing harm. And until he’s rehabilitated, if we leave him out, and if he carries out what he intends to do, I think we’ll all be very sorry.”
Noting the boy’s young age, he added, “there must be considerable hope that he can be rehabilitated.”
The Minister also said that it was important to note that the boy had been apprehended under the ISA before carrying out the attacks and that the authorities had not waited until he had committed a crime.
This was one of the reasons why he will not be tried in court, as it can be argued that no actual criminal acts have been carried out, Mr Shanmugam said.
“In many countries, that’s part of the issue. You have to wait for them to do something and often that’s too late…
I think our people support the approach where we intervene very early.”
The teen will, however, take the stand in court and speak about how he was inspired by the Christchurch attack, which could cause tensions between Muslims and Christians.
In a Facebook post on Jan 27, Mr Shanmugam had written that the youth had watched the video of the attack, which Tarrant had live-streamed, and had planned on also live-streaming his own attack.
“He bought a tactical vest and identified a machete to use for the attack.
He watched videos to learn how to attack with a machete, and target the neck and chest areas.
He researched the mosques online to prepare for the attack,” the Minister wrote.
Mr Shanmugam added that the youth could only see two outcomes to his attack, that he would be arrested before carrying it out or be killed by the police as he went on his killing spree.
“He was very serious.
This is a dangerous new development.
Far-right extremism is growing in many parts of the world, and seeping into Singapore as well,” wrote the Minister.
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