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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Man cleared of terror training charge
Sulayman Zain-ul-abidin
Mr Zain-ul-abidin said he had been made a "scapegoat"
A British man has been found not guilty of running a training course on the web to recruit Islamic terrorists.

Sulayman Zain-ul-abidin, from south east London, walked free from the Old Bailey having been cleared of the first charges to be brought against a Muslim in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000 since 11 September.

The 44-year-old, of Ryan Close, Greenwich, protested that he had been made a "trophy" scapegoat.

He was accused of setting up a website called Ultimate Jihad Challenge that offered arms training courses in America.

Prosecutors alleged it was to "assist or prepare for terrorism".

'Totally innocent'

Mr Zain-ul-abidin said nothing when the jury returned their verdict on Friday.

Outside the court his solicitor said he would now have to rebuild his life.

"He has nothing now - yet he is a totally innocent man," said Muddassar Arani.

She added that it was too early to say whether they would consider suing for false arrest.

An Islamic convert, Mr Zain-ul-abidin was arrested three weeks after 11 September.

Two-week course

He had gone to a police station voluntarily to complain that he did not feel safe after a newspaper carried an article about what he was doing.

His website offered live firearms training on a two-week course in the US at a cost of 3,000, Mark Ellison, prosecuting, said at the start of the case.


If September 11 never happened I wouldn't be standing here and trying to justify trying to make a business

Mr Zain-ul-abidin

The prosecution claimed that the invitation to go on the course was "wholly for the purposes of assisting or preparing terrorism".

But Mr Zain-ul-abidin said it was a bona fide commercial venture for training people such as security guards.

He said the only person to have taken a course in the last two years was a Sainsbury's security guard.

The court heard police had found a laptop in Mr Zain-ul-abidin's locker containing articles about Osama bin Laden and his terror organisation, al-Qaeda.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said after the case: "Officers from the Anti-Terrorist Branch believe the prosecution was properly brought before the court."

'Prize'

But the defendant claimed he was a "trophy" scapegoat for the 11 September attacks on America.

He said in court: "September 11 happened and they have got to show the public they are fighting Islamic terrorism.


It's a real problem both for the integrity of our criminal justice system and for the confidence of Britain's Muslims

John Wadham, Liberty

"It's a joke - the bottom line is that if September 11 never happened I wouldn't be standing here and trying to justify trying to make a business.

"I'm their trophy, I'm their prize. They have got to convict me."

Director of civil rights group Liberty, John Wadham, said "draconian" anti-terrorism powers have been used since 11 September to justify arrests of people "who have then been found to have done nothing wrong.

"It's a real problem both for the integrity of our criminal justice system and for the confidence of Britain's Muslims, who have been the target of most of these arrests," he said.

Liberty is opposed to people being trained in the use of lethal weapons. but Mr Wadham said: "The fact remains that offering such training in the USA is legal."

Mr Zain-ul-abidin inviting another to receive instruction or training in making or using firearms or explosives between February 20 and October 2, last year.

A chef at the Royal College of Obstetricians, Mr Zain-ul-abidin was born Francis Etim in Chelsea, central London, but changed his name after converting to Islam in 1979.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Manel
"Mr Zain-ul-abidin said he'd intended to make money out of his business, but never did"
Solicitor for Mr Zain-ul-abidin, Maddassar Arani
"My client has been a victim of 11 September"

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18 Oct 01 | Americas
04 Aug 02 | Middle East
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