Harlesden man appears at the Old Bailey accused of imam murder in Wembley

Victim: Abdul Hadi Arwani (Pic credit: Twitter)

Victim: Abdul Hadi Arwani (Pic credit: Twitter) - Credit: Archant

A Harlesden man accused of shooting dead an outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Wembley denied murder at the Old Bailey.

Abdul Hadi Arwani was a married father-of-six

Abdul Hadi Arwani was a married father-of-six - Credit: Archant

Leslie Cooper, 36, of Nightingale Road, allegedly gunned down former imam Abdul Hadi Arwani, 48, in Greenhill at the junction of The Paddocks, on the morning of 7 April.

The court heard Mr Arwani, a Syrian-born father-of-six who ran a building company, was found dead at the wheel of his Volkswagen Passat.

He had been shot five times and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cooper appeared at the Old Bailey in a grey tracksuit for a plea and case management hearing.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing a firearm without a certificate and possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate.

The weapons charges relate to a Mac 10 machine pistol capable of firing 1,250 rounds a minute, a sound moderator and three rounds of 9mm ammunition.

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Mr Arwani had gained prominence as an outspoken critic of the Assad regime and attended protests outside the Syrian embassy in central London in 2012.

He claimed he fled Syria in 1982 after the regime sentenced him to death for photographing damage caused by government forces in his home city of Hama.

Mr Arwani was last seen alive leaving his family home at 9.30am to meet a man called John.

Cooper was remanded in custody and is due to stand trial on October 12 this year.