Airline Employee Linked To Terrorist Plot Sues For Religious Discrimination
British Airways fired a baggage handler who was linked to a terrorist plot, but due to lack of direct evidence was never convicted. The man insists that he's innocent, and is suing the airline for religious discrimination.
Last year, Rajib Karim (pictured at left), a former IT specialist for British Airways, was found guilty of plotting to blow up an aircraft, and conspiring with the Yemeni-American radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. Known as the "bin Laden of the Internet," al-Awlaki had allegedly emailed Karim to ask: "Is it possible to get a package or person with a package on board a flight heading to the US?"
During the investigation, police found emails between Karim and al-Awlaki. It took months for police to unscramble the heavily encrypted messages, reports the Daily Mail, but they eventually found a person with the code name "shzd," referring to a man with a security pass that the two terrorists were hoping to use. Police found that a "shzd" was also saved on Karim's phone, and the phone number was that of Shahzada Khan, a British Airways baggage handler.
It is unclear whether Khan had given the men permission to use his security pass, or were even aware that they wanted it. But police also found emails between Karim and Khan, and Khan admitted to having dinner at least 10 times with the convicted terrorist, as well as playing soccer and cricket with him. They also found that Khan had given money to Karim, which officials suspected had been used to finance terrorist operations.
On Karim's computer at his home in Slough, police also discovered speeches by Osama bin Laden and al-Awlaki, clips of "martyrdom" explosions, and a PDF file that described the U.S. as, "The land of shame, crime, vile, filth and evil. Furthermore it is the most populous whore house, homosexuality and lesbianism."
Khan was arrested in the investigation, but no charges were pursued due to lack of evidence. But the allegations were enough for British Airways, who fired Khan in December.
"While there was no actual evidence of Khan being involved in any plots, I considered it far too much of a risk to British Airways to keep him," explained Sara Edwards, the baggage operations manager at Heathrow, and Khan's former supervisor. "Any link to terrorism cannot be tolerated within an organization which is a key target for terrorist groups."
Khan is now suing the airline for dismissing him for religious reasons. He claims that he is not the "shzd" mentioned in the emails, and that the videos on his computer were simply a way to keep up with current affairs, reports the Daily Mail. Khan has yet to give evidence to the tribunal that is hearing the case.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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