Acquitted British Terror Suspect Dies
LONDON (AP) _ The first Muslim to be tried under British terrorism laws after the Sept. 11 attacks has died following knee surgery, his lawyer said Thursday.
Sulayman Balal Zainulabidin, 44, who was acquitted of charges he ran a weapons training program for terrorists, died Dec. 22 at Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, west London, said his attorney Maddassar Arani.
She said Zainulabidin died after being stricken by a powerful ``superbug,″ or drug-resistant bacteria, following an operation on an arthritic knee. The cause of death was recorded as cardiac arrest, septic knee and organ failure, she said.
``He was all right the day after the operation, but the third day he lapsed into a coma, went into intensive care and never recovered consciousness,″ Arani said.
Zainulabidin, a chef who lived in south London, was arrested on Oct. 1, 2001, and freed upon his acquittal in August 2002.
Arani said he suffered from arthritis and grew frail while imprisoned. He had surgery because an infection developed in one of his arthritic knees, she said.
Through his Sakina Security Services, Zainulabidin promoted a program called ``The Ultimate Jihad Challenge″ on a Web site, purporting to offer training at a shooting range in the United States.
Prosecutors alleged the course was designed to train terrorists. Zainulabidin said he was only training people to work as bodyguards and accused police of apprehending him because they were under pressure to make arrests after Sept. 11.
``It’s a joke,″ he said during the trial. ``The bottom line is that if Sept. 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.″
A jury acquitted him.
Prosecutors never suggested Zainulabidin was connected to the Sept. 11 attacks.
He was born Francis Etim in central London and changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1979.
Mark Yates, the operator of a weapons training camp in rural Alabama, testified that Zainulabidin had plagiarized promotional materials and used them on his Web site, but he had no ties with the Alabama camp.
State and federal officials in Alabama said there was no evidence terrorists trained at the camp, called ``Ground Zero,″ near the west Alabama city of Marion.