Terror concern as Thulsie twins released on early parole

Twin brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie are facing three counts of terror-related charges. The twins attempted to join Isis in 2015 and also planned to bomb a mission of the US and Jewish institutions in South Africa. Picture: Facebook.

Twin brothers Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie are facing three counts of terror-related charges. The twins attempted to join Isis in 2015 and also planned to bomb a mission of the US and Jewish institutions in South Africa. Picture: Facebook.

Published Aug 20, 2022


Johannesburg - Top security analyst Jasmine Opperman said it was never established how closely associated brothers Brandon-Lee and twin brother Tony-Lee Thulsie were to terrorism.

And now that the brothers are free, she is concerned.

“As a counter-terrorism analyst, I am worried, because we don’t have any conclusive statement or position on how they relate today with the Islamic State,” she said. “And we know that in people who have been put away for such long times, the probability of radicalisation increases drastically.”

This week, the Thulsie brothers, suspected of links to the Islamic State (Isil), were released on early parole

Opperman said the investigation and trial were a failure, where the State was unable to prove terrorism, this after the US CIA intelligence-led investigation put a lot of resources into the case.

Terror-accused and Islamic State-linked twins Tony-Lee and Brandon-Lee Thulsie appear at the Johannesburg high court. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

“The whole court case was a failure. It has not installed confidence that South Africa is effective in countering terrorism. It has left us with more questions on the vulnerability of South Africa.”

Another concern for Opperman is that the police and other state institutions don’t have the resources to put the Thulsie twins under continual surveillance.

The Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) spokesperson, Singabakho Nxumalo, confirmed the brothers were placed on early parole on August 18.

“According to the warrants, their sentences were backdated to their date of arrest and the time spent awaiting trial, to be considered as time served. That being a period of five years and seven months,” he said.

But DCS would not elaborate on the conditions around the twins’ parole, saying those are not generally released. It is not clear whether travel restrictions have been imposed on the siblings or whether their passports have been revoked.

According to their lawyer, Yousha Tayob, the two men are happy to be back home with their family but for the next two years they face strict parole restrictions.

“They have got certain reporting conditions.They’ve got to be at home for the bulk of the time.They are not allowed out on weekends or to take vacations. They’ve been restricted from attending prayers,” he said.

Tayob added that the first two years of their parole will be a monitoring period, after which there will be a reassessment. They have also been banned from speaking to the media for those two years.

The Thulsie twins, now 28, made history as the first South Africans to be charged for being connected to Isil.

The high profile case dragged on for more than five years since the brothers were first arrested in July 2016. It finally came to a close on February 7, after they entered into a plea deal with the state and were sentenced by the Gauteng High Court.

After almost six years in jail, awaiting trial, the twins pleaded guilty to trying to leave South Africa to join Isil in Syria.

Tony-Lee also pleaded guilty to conspiring to conduct terror attacks against foreign embassies and local Jewish interests in South Africa.

The convictions of the brothers in the Johannesburg High Court were the first for international terrorism under the 2004 Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act (Pocdatara), known as the “Terrorism Act”. Previous convictions under the act have been against local right-wingers.

Under the plea bargain, both accused pleaded guilty to attempting to travel to Syria twice in 2015 to join Isil to conduct terrorist activities. But both times authorities prevented them leaving, suspecting their true intent.

The brothers also pleaded guilty to downloading Isil literature from the internet, including instructions on how to acquire weapons and make bombs.

In addition, Tony-Lee pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack in South Africa. The state alleged he had been in regular contact with a person outside South Africa with strong links to Isil. Tony-Lee requested instructions on how to make an explosive device and indicated he had targets in mind and said he intended also to blow himself up in the attack.

The state’s evidence indicated he planned attacks in the US, UK, and on Russian or French diplomats and embassies in Pretoria.

In exchange for their guilty pleas on these charges, the state withdrew several other charges against the Thulsies, such as financing terrorist activities and soliciting support for Isil .

The Hawks’ spokesperson in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Colonel Katlego Mogale, said at the time the brothers were declared unfit to possess firearms, in terms of the Firearms Control Act.

“This is after they pleaded guilty on Monday, February 7, following an intensive prosecution-led investigation by the members of the Crimes Against the State team within the Serious Organised Crime Investigation Unit,” she said.

The twins were arrested in 2016 in a multi-disciplinary operation on the West Rand on allegations of planning attacks on the US Embassy, the UK High Commission and Jewish institutions within South Africa.

Brandon-Lee, who was sentenced to eight years, had already served the minimum detention period, whereas the 11 years given to Tony-Lee meant his minimum detention period was January 5.

Nxumalo said the twins were considered for parole placement in accordance with Section 73 of the Correctional Services Act. The Correctional Supervision and Parole Board confirmed their parole placement.

“Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie will therefore remain in our system of Community Corrections until their sentences expire,” Nxumalo said.

Executive member at Media Review Network, which states that it aims to dispel myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, Iqbal Jassat, said they are extremely pleased that the Thulsie twins are finally reunited with their family and able to breathe fresh air out of jail.

“Their painful six-year-long incarceration, which we believe was unfair detention without trial, has most certainly taken a huge toll. Questions about the circumstances in which they fell victim to what we view as entrapment by faceless agents remain unanswered,” he said.

Jassat added that Media Review Network has always “warned against America’s unjust wars in Muslim lands and their unilateral imposition of the discredited War on Terror, which since 9/11 to this day, has caused death and destruction”.