Court Clears Man in Terror Case
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LONDON (AP) _ A chef who promoted ``The Ultimate Jihad Challenge″ on an Internet site, inviting people to take weapons training in the United States, was found innocent of terrorist charges Friday.
A jury at London’s Old Bailey criminal court found Sulayman Balal Zainulabidin, 44, innocent of violating the Terrorism Act.
Zainulabidin, a convert to Islam, was arrested three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and two weeks after going to a London police station to complain that he did not feel safe after a newspaper article published details of his Web site. It has since been dismantled by British authorities.
During the trial, prosecutor Mark Ellison said Zainulabidin told police he was merely offering to train people who wanted to work as bodyguards.
The prosecution maintained, however, that the course was ``wholly for the purposes of assisting or preparing terrorism.″
Although the business was a commercial failure, the motivation behind it ``was the pursuit of jihad, a holy war, against the perceived enemies of Islam,″ Ellison said.
Prosecutors did not suggest that Zainulabidin was connected to the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
After four days of deliberation a jury found him innocent under the Terrorism Act of inviting others to receive training in firearms or explosives between Feb. 20 and Oct. 6 last year.
He showed no emotion as the jury returned its verdict. His lawyer said outside court he would now have to rebuild his life.
``His house had been repossessed since his arrest. He has nothing now, yet he is a totally innocent man,″ said attorney Muddassar Arani.
Zainulabidin, a chef at the Royal College of Obstetricians, was born Francis Etim in central London before changing his name and converting to Islam in 1979.
He argued that police arrested him as a ``trophy″ suspect.
``Sept. 11 happened and they have got to show the public they are fighting Islamic terrorism,″ he said during the trial.
``It’s a joke. 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. They have got to convict me,″ he said.
At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said Zainulabidin was the founder and chief instructor of a group offering young Muslims training in martial arts, weapons and ``the Islamic art of war.″
They said he had admitted running Sakina Security Services, an ``Islamic threat management″ firm whose Web site advertised ``high-risk jobs in the former Soviet Union and in the civil war arenas of the world.″
According to prosecutors, Zainulabidin’s ``Ultimate Jihad Challenge″ offered weapons training in the United States at an unidentified shooting range.
Students could expect to fire 2,000 to 3,000 rounds of mixed caliber ammunition and be trained in tactical ambush, working as a team under fire, sniper and multi-target engagement, Ellison said.
Zainulabidin’s lawyer had previously said her client doctored promotional materials from a weapons training camp in Alabama called ``Ground Zero″ in a bid to lure customers, but insisted he had not broken any laws.
The camp’s Web site featured a photo of the burning World Trade Center towers and promoted anti-terrorist training after Sept. 11, but the name was used long before the terrorist attacks.
The operator of the camp, Mark D. Yates, has said Zainulabidin had not been to the camp and had not sent anyone there for training, but had attended three of his courses in Wales in 1996.
State and federal officials in Alabama have said there is no evidence terrorists trained at ``Ground Zero,″ located near the west Alabama city of Marion.