CIA HIT SQUAD ACCUSED OF LONDON ASSASSINATION
by Yvonne Ridley*
4 January - Globe Intel:
A man accused of using a website to offer training to would-be terrorists has died in a London hospital under mysterious circumstances.
Friends and family believe Sulayman Zain-ul-abidin was murdered in his hospital bed as he recovered from a routine knee surgery.
Those suspecting foul play, say the Muslim convert could even be the first victim of a CIA hit squad sent to Britain to "eliminate" terrorist suspects.
The American agents who are licensed to kill, are under orders to "track, hunt and eliminate" Al Qaeda suspects as part of President George W Bush's War on Terrorism.
Now questions are being asked if Mr Zain-ul-abidin's name featured on the hit list. Sheikh Abu Hamza, a friend of the dead man, is already thought to be on the hit list suspected of being Al Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe.
Mr Zain-ul-abidin was admitted to hospital near Uxbridge for a routine operation on his knee. Within days of the minor surgery his health dramatically deteriorated and he slipped in to a coma. Medical records went missing arousing suspicion among those close to him.
"Sulayman was laughing and joking with us for the first two days after his operation. He was sitting up in bed and said he felt fine. By the third day he seemed drowsy and his wife became alarmed. After that he slipped in to a coma. His drug records went missing and no one seemed to know what medication he had been given. It all sounded very suspicious and then on Sunday he died. He never came out of his coma. We wanted a big investigation," said a close family friend.
However, the exact cause of his death may never be known, after the family of Mr Zain-ul-abidin refused a post mortem examination on religious grounds. He was buried on Tuesday after a service attended by more than 400 people.
Maddassar Arani, his solicitor, said: "His wife did not want a post mortem examination on religious grounds and because of her wishes no tests or examinations have been carried out. She does not want her husband's body to be exhumed to try and prove foul play or medical negligence. She has lost her husband and no amount of legal activity and claims can bring back her husband. She did not want his burial delayed and wants no further pain for her husband. We have to respect her wishes.
"The cause of death on the certificate has been given as cardiac arrest, organ failure, a septic knee and arthritis. His death is very suspicious. The day before he went into hospital he said he wanted to see me about something very important. He said he had some vital information about the anti- terrorist squad, but did not want to discuss it over the telephone."
Even though her client was cleared at the Old Bailey earlier this year, Mrs Arani said she was aware that the FBI were still conducting an investigation trying to link her client to another terrorist suspect being held in America.
Mr Zain-ul-abidin, came to prominence last year as the first Muslim to be tried in Britain under the Terrorism Act of 2000 since the atrocities of September 11. He was cleared at the Old Bailey after he claimed that he had been made a scapegoat.
The 44-year-old chef, who worked at the Royal College of Obstetricians, was arrested after his website offering "the Ultimate Jihad Challenge" - including weapons training at a state of the art centre in America - was exposed by a London newspaper. In the witness box, he denounced his detention as a joke.
"September 11 happened and they have got to show the public they are fighting Islamic terrorists. At the magistrates' court, the prosecutor said they had 40 anti-terrorism officers on this case working 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 55 countries.
"Now I have appeared before the highest court in the land and what evidence have they produced? It's a joke. The bottom line is that, if September 11 had never happened, I would not be standing here trying to justify trying to make a business. I am their trophy. I am their prize. They have got to convict me," Mr Zain-ul-abidin told the jury who cleared him after a five-day retirement.
After he walked from the court, FBI sources in America confirmed that they were still investigating an alleged link between Zain-ul-abidin's security company Sakina and James Ujaama, another convert to Islam arrested in Denver, Colorado, on a material witness warrant. The FBI alleges that Ujaama delivered laptop computers to the Taliban.
Mrs Arani said: "He had nothing to do with the Ujaama case and I am quite prepared to testify and say just that."
On the day he walked free from the Old Bailey she said: "He has nothing now and yet he is a totally innocent man. His house has been repossessed since his arrest and he will now have to rebuild his life."
After the newspaper article appeared, Mr Zain-ul-abidin went to a police station near his home in Kidbrook, south-east London, and expressed fears for his safety. He told police that he gave security training to people from all ethnic backgrounds and he left his business card.
When he was arrested two weeks later police found articles in his laptop about bin Laden and al-Qaeda. They also found that he had erased e-mails about the weapons course, one of which said: "Let me sacrifice myself for jihad - send details".
Mark Ellison, prosecuting, said the website advertised Zain-ul-abidin's company, Sakina Security Services, as "Britain's first Islamic threat assessment unit", offering a variety of training for bodyguards, survival techniques and weapon instruction.
He said the corporate front of the site was a veil of protection for its true purpose, "assisting or preparing terrorism". Sakina was "a dismal
Mr Zain-ul-abidin, who was born Francis Etim in London but changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1979, said he was running a legitimate security training business and ignored any responses to the site from those who thought he might be recruiting for a jihad.
His company Sakina, released a statement immediately after his death on Sunday. It read:
"Sulayman has been harassed by the police and MI5 since 1999 when he was arrested with Abu Hamza. Sulayman was arrested in order for him to provide evidence against Abu Hamza. Sulayman declined to do so as he has never wanted to give evidence against Abu Hamza who is the sheikh of Finsbury Park Mosque.
"Sulayman was then arrested and detained by the anti-terrorist branch in order to put pressure on him to give evidence against Abu Hamza, which he refused to do so. Since then there has been a conspiracy against Sulayman to have him prosecuted. He was arrested on October 1 2001 and detained for over 10 months in prison. He was proved innocent of terrorist charges on August 9 2002.
"What happened to Sulayman should not be allowed to happen to any other person. Sulayman was not a member of any group and never has been."
The statement ends with a final line stating: "His friends are treating his death with suspicion."
Sheikh Abu Hamza is understood to have supported the call for a post mortem examination. The usually outspoken cleric declined to comment "until later" on Mr Zain-ul-Abidin's death.
A spokesman for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which is "alarmed and concerned" about this story, said:
"What was unknown about Sulayman Zain ul Abedin is his extremely caring nature, which became apparent at his funeral. People from all different backgrounds, schools of thought and indeed many non-Muslim friends and colleagues gathered. Each one had many stories of his kindness and caring nature. The many tears were testimony that he will be greatly missed. His wrongful arrest and detention still demand an apology from the authorities."
The IHRC says it intends to press for more information from the British Government.
* Yvonne Ridley is the distinguished foreign correspondent who writes for the Sunday Express and the UK Sunday broadsheet, The Observer. She is a regular guest on BBC and European TV and Radio talks shows.