UK court acquits 11 September "scapegoat"

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On Friday 9 August the first person to be tried in a British court since 11 September was acquitted by a jury at the Old Bailey. Suleyman Zainulabdin, a London chef, was arrested in October and had been charged under the Terrorism Act 2000 with inviting another to receive instruction or training in making or using firearms or explosives.

The prosecution said he ran the "Sakina Security Services" website offering courses in the "Islamic art of war". The site they said had links to militant groups and the police who raided his home found a copy of Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against the USA and its allies. The prosecution did not claim that Suleyman Zainulabdin was a member of al-Qaeda but said the security firm was a "front or veil" and that on his computer hard drive the police found an e-mail which included the words: "Let me sacrifice for the jihad". Mr Zainulabdin told the court that he set up the website because he wanted to teach Muslims to survive if they needed to in Britain and he provided training in unarmed combat: "it was purely martial arts and sometimes no one would turn up at all".

Mr Zainulabdin told the court that he was an 11 September "scapegoat". He said that at the magistrates court:

"the prosecutors said they had got 40 anti-terrorist officers on this case working 24 hours a days, seven days a week in 55 countries. Now I have appeared before the highest court in the land and what evidence have they produced? What was in my house all the time. I'm their trophy, I'm their prize"

Although US investigators and UK police and MI5 (internal security service) have claimed that Britain has been used as a base by key figures to indoctrinate, train and organise "Islamic terrorists" so far no one has been extradited for or convicted in a British court.

In another case a judge at Bow Street magistrates court heard, on 29 July, that the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, had ruled that there was insufficient evidence to extradite Yasser al-Siri, a London-based bookseller, to the USA. Mr Blunkett said in a statement to the court that: "He was not satisfied that the prime facie evidence test was met".

In May Mr al-Siri was put on trial at the Old Bailey for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy to kill Afghan opposition leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated on 9 September. When the charges were thrown out the trail judge said Mr al-Siri was "an innocent fall guy". This did not stop the police immediately re-arresting him and the police telling a court that: "he was arrested on an extradition warrant issued on 15 May on behalf of the government of the US. The allegation.. is that between 6 May and 14 May 2001, he did provide money to Ahmed Abdel-Rahman for al-Qaeda knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that the money would or may be used for the purposes of terrorism".

The US authorities had asked for his extradition but failed to produce the evidence to support their demand. Mr al-Siri had spent almost seven months in the high security Belmarsh prison. His lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said that he had been "wrongly accused" and: "Mr al-Siri is one of a number of innocent people who has done far too long in appalling conditions in prison"

Guardian, 30.7.02 & 10.8.02

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