Algerian pilot falsely linked to 9/11 loses compensation bid

Lotfi Raissi, 33, was arrested at Heathrow Airport shortly after attacks and accused of training the hijackers.

sept 11 (photo credit: )
sept 11
(photo credit: )
An Algerian-born pilot wrongly jailed in Britain on accusations that he trained the Sept. 11 hijackers lost a legal bid for compensation Thursday at London's High Court. Two judges ruled that the government was entitled to exclude Lotfi Raissi, 33, from its compensation policy for victims of miscarriages of justice because he had been held on a US extradition warrant. The judges said the legal proceedings did not fall "in the domestic criminal process." Raissi said he planned to appeal, arguing he had suffered a miscarriage of justice "because of my profile of being Algerian, Muslim, Arabic and an airline pilot." Raissi was arrested near London's Heathrow Airport shortly after the 2001 attacks after being indicted by a federal grand jury in the US state of Arizona. United States prosecutors described him as a prime suspect in the 9/11 case, claiming he offered pilot training to the hijackers. However, the United States had sought to extradite Raissi on charges of falsifying applications for a pilot's license - he allegedly failed to disclose a knee operation - and other documents. A British judge refused to extradite Raissi to face trial and released him after almost five months in custody, claiming there was no evidence to link him with terrorism. Raissi has claimed the ordeal ruined his life, damaged his reputation and caused lasting psychological damage. The British government told Raissi in 2005 he was not eligible for compensation, saying its compensation policy did not apply in extradition cases. Government lawyers said Raissi could not claim his case was exceptional because he had never been completely exonerated of the charges and might still be arrested if he went to the United States. Raissi said British police and prosecutors had played a big part in his detention. "The court's decision allows the Home Secretary to ignore the part played by those public bodies in ruining my life," he said. "I have no choice but to keep my faith in British justice and pray that it won't be too much longer in coming." Last year, an appeal hearing granted him the right to challenge that decision.