Son of Mas Selamat

Son of Mas Selamat

SINGAPORE - The several hundred neighbours who attended the wedding reception of teachers Muhammad Hanif and Choiriyah Nurrohmah three Sundays ago at a village in southern Solo found it odd.

There were no wedding photographers.

And guests had a hard time picking out the groom, who dressed plainly in a tunic and trousers rolled up above his ankles.

Male and female guests were separated by a curtain, recalls neighbourhood community leader Joko Haryono, 51: "There were only waiters, so the female section didn't have anyone to help serve food.

"And it was in a style that was so un-Javanese. There was only a Quran recital and preaching, no dances or the usual display of traditional Javanese culture."

Mrs Andi Handoko, whose husband runs a food stall across the road from the wedding hall said: "The bride was on stage with several other women, all clad in burqas.

We couldn't tell which one was the bride."

But what happened next would become the talk of the village for days to come.

Shortly before noon, bridegroom Hanif, 24, and his wife's seven-year-old brother walked to the nearby mosque for their midday prayer.

The next moment, two police officers in plain clothes appeared and tried to detain him. Hanif resisted, elbowing the men. Six others quickly subdued him, eyewitnesses said.

News reached the wedding reception that "a jihad man has been arrested".


Minutes later, police approached the 22-year-old bride and her father, handyman Tri Sarjono, 47, with a copy of the arrest warrant for immigration offences.

The family claims that was the first time they found out that Hanif's real name was Masyhadi alias Muhammad Hanif Mas Selamat, and that he was a Singapore citizen.

But to the authorities, there was no mistake: the Singaporean overstayer resembled his father, Mas Selamat Kastari, who had once plotted to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport, before being caught and then escaping from detention.

Mas Selamat was recaptured in Malaysia and remains in detention in Singapore under the Internal Security Act.

Hanif's identity documents left at the marriage registry in Solo said he was born in Riau on Jan 8, 1989, and that both his biological parents, Edi Harianto and Zuraidah, were dead.

Mas Selamat, who had fled Singapore with several others after the first crackdown on the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network in 2001, had taken on the name Edi Harianto while on the run in Indonesia.

Some time in 2002, he and his wife left Masyhadi, their eldest son, at the JI-linked Al-Muttaqien pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, on the north coast of central Java, and took their four younger children with them on the move.

Mas Selamat is said to have told Indonesian investigators that it was Bali bomber Mukhlas who had advised him to send his son to Al-Muttaqien.

Mas Selamat was detained by Indonesian police near Tanjung Pinang, Bintan, in February 2003, convicted for immigration offences, and sentenced to 18 months' jail.

His wife and four younger children were deported to Singapore but Masyhadi remained in Indonesia.

Little was known of what became of him, but in recent years, he came under the eye of the authorities.



'Foster' family

Documents that Masyhadi submitted to get married show that at some point, he was in the care of pushcart hawker Mudjijono, 47, in Magetan, East Java, a three-hour drive from Solo.

Mr Mudjijono and his wife have six children, and the Singaporean is listed as a member of their family on a document dated April this year.

When The Sunday Times visited his home, Mr Mudjijono, who sells soto ayam, looked shaken and tried to leave.

After some persuasion, he admitted that he had been a witness for Masyhadi when the latter's marriage was registered in September.

He said Masyhadi had been under his charge since 2005, and obtained his identity card in 2008.

But the youth had lived mostly at boarding schools, and a long-time neighbour said he had never seen Masyhadi in the area.

It appears that up to 2005, Masyhadi attended the Al-Ihsan pesantren in Madiun, about 20km away.

But his middle-school leaving certificate is from another religious school nearby, the Madrasah Tsanawiyah An-Najihah.

Senior instructor Fathu Shobah explained that this was because Al-Ihsan was not licensed to issue regular diplomas, as it does not follow the national curriculum.

"Hanif was among our smartest and best boys. His English is very good," he recalled, referring to Masyhadi by the name he used.

Al-Ihsan has a dark past. It has been associated with Bali bomber Amrozi Nurhasyim, whose in-laws live in the town, as well as JI bombmaker Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, who had reconnoitred the American, Australian and Israeli embassies in Singapore in 2001 for a plot.

Al-Ghozi was killed during a police shoot-out in Mindanao in late 2003.

After leaving Al-Ihsan, Masyhadi moved to the outskirts of Solo to join another Islamic school, Darusy Syahadah, whose name translates as "School for Martyrs" in Arabic.

It was set up in 1993 by the Yasmin Foundation, a support network that surfaced in the trials of terrorists behind the Bali bomb blasts of October 2002 that killed 202 people.

Masyhadi's 2008 school-leaving certificate from Darusy Syahadah says he passed the final examinations in the teachers' college there.

The certificate bears the Yasmin Foundation stamp and is signed by then principal Mustaqim, an Afghanistan veteran like Mas Selamat.

Mustaqim at one point headed the military department of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council and according to radical websites, visited Syria last year to volunteer in humanitarian efforts.

Darusy Syahadah's current principal, religious teacher Qosdi Ridwanullah, told The Sunday Times Masyhadi was a spirited student always on his best behaviour. "He had good English and Arabic-language skills," he said.

Reporting on Masyhadi's arrest last month, the hardline Arrahmah website said he taught at his former school, and had also been an ustaz or religious teacher elsewhere.

But Mr Qosdi said Masyhadi never taught at the school after he left. His adoptive father, Mr Mudjijono, said that as far as he knew, Masyhadi taught at Al-Ihsan.

Although Masyhadi's name does not appear on a school list of all 23 instructors, several students at Al-Ihsan recognised him from his photograph as an instructor in Quran-reading and memorisation.

Meets wife

Masyhadi and his wife, Choiriyah, met at a pesantren where both were teaching and were introduced by friends, according to his mother- in-law.

They were engaged on July 28, registered their marriage on Sept 6, and Masyhadi then moved in to his in-laws' home in Solo. The neighbourhood, Desa Semanggi, is home to mostly batik traders of Arabic descent, as well as labourers and construction workers, its head Mr Rusdan Azis said.

Neighbours said Masyhadi always had a smile for them, but kept to himself and rarely spoke. He was clearly fond of his wife's sevenyear- old brother and would often buy him snacks.

Neighbours said Ms Choiriyah had been away at a pesantren in East Java since her middle school days.

While her parents were evasive about her current whereabouts, neighbours said she returned to East Java not long after Masyhadi's arrest.

The arrest shook the family up.

Within days, they went to Jakarta to approach Mr Achmad Michdan of the Muslim Lawyers' Team, which has been representing those accused of terror offences.

Masyhadi's father-in-law, Mr Sarjono, said that on Oct 25, a week after the arrest, he and his daughter visited Masyhadi at the Indonesian Police Headquarters' detention cell in Jakarta.

The arrest warrant said Masyhadi had violated immigration offences and that Indonesian Police had received a request from the Government of Singapore dated Sept 17 requesting his arrest.

Mr Sarjono recalled his meeting with his son-in-law: "I told him, 'I handed over my daughter to you and you are responsible for taking care of her.' He replied, 'Yes, I'm responsible, but for the time being I'm letting God take care of her.'

"He is said to have done something wrong, but that was then, when he was single. Now he is a married man and has responsibilities. Somebody must take care of his wife if he is taken away."

His wife had another revelation: she said her daughter Choiriyah was a little over one-month pregnant with Masyhadi's child.

Mr Sarjono revealed that he himself was interrogated by local police for three hours in a hotel room in Solo on Oct 29.

"I was asked why I let my daughter marry Hanif, and they also asked me to explain the different customs during their wedding reception," he recalled. "I said it was something both he and my daughter approved. Why should I bother?"

Masyhadi was handed over to Singapore officials and deported on Oct 30. Four days later, Indonesian police and Singapore's Home Affairs ministry confirmed the handover separately.

Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said he was being investigated for possible involvement in activities inimical to the security of Singapore.

It is unclear whether he was plotting any attacks.

Another major unanswered question is whether he made contact with his father between 2008 and 2009 when the former JI leader was on the run from the Singapore authorities after fleeing Whitley Road Detention Centre.

Analyst Muh Taufiqurrohman of the Abdurrahman Wahid Centre in Jakarta told The Sunday Times that Masyhadi would likely share the hardline views of his school's teachers and graduates, some of whom have carried out attacks in Indonesia.

"These will stay with him and influence the way he perceives others.

If the opportunity arises, he will attack the parties he views as his enemies," he adds.

Mr Ali Fauzi, a former JI member who now helps the government rehabilitate militants, says he last saw Masyhadi around seven years ago when he visited the Darusy Syahadah pesantren.

He told The Sunday Times that as Masyhadi had been raised by the JI, he would in all likelihood have imbibed their thinking. "As far as I know, he has not been involved in an attack," he said. "But it's good that he's been deported, so that he does not get involved in terrorist linked activity in Indonesia."

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