KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian prosecutors charged an al-Qaeda-linked former army captain and a woman Friday with inciting terrorist acts that could have involved violence in Syria.
Yazid Sufaat, who spent seven years in detention without trial before being freed in 2008, and Halimah Hussein face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
The charge read in a Magistrate’s Court said that Yazid “encouraged terrorist activities” at a house in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur sometime between early August and late October, while Halimah abetted him.
Police arrested Yazid, Halimah and another man Thursday, saying they were the masterminds of an effort to recruit militants. It was not clear whether the third suspect would be charged.
Prosecution documents offered scant details except that their actions could have threatened public safety in Syria.
Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, late Thursday quoted unidentified sources as saying the suspects tried to recruit young people to be trained for missions that included suicide bombings. Police officials declined Friday to comment.
The case was being transferred to a higher court that would determine hearing dates and find out whether Yazid and Halimah intended to plead innocent. The two were being held in separate prisons while awaiting trial.
Yazid was one of Malaysia’s most prominent security detainees in the last decade. A US-trained biochemist and former captain in Malaysia’s army, he was detained without trial in 2001 after being accused of belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant network. He was released seven years later when officials said he no longer posed a threat.
Malaysia’s Parliament last year abolished a longstanding law allowing indefinite detention without trial following decades of criticism over human rights concerns.
Yazid was previously arrested when he returned from Afghanistan, where he was suspected of working on a biological and chemical weapons program for al-Qaeda.
He allegedly let several senior al-Qaeda operatives, including two eventual hijackers in the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, use an apartment he owned for meetings in Malaysia in January 2000. Officials have said the September 11 attacks were not discussed there.
Yazid, now a cafeteria operator, has not spoken publicly about many of the previous accusations against him, but in an interview with news website Malaysiakini last year he said he had met Osama bin Laden before his detention and underwent combat training in Afghanistan.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.