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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 10:47 GMT
Pilot loses fight for 9/11 payout
Lotfi Raissi
Lotfi Raissi says his life was destroyed by the accusations
A pilot wrongly accused of training the 9/11 hijackers has lost his fight for compensation from the government.

Lotfi Raissi, 32, of west London, was detained for nearly five months after being arrested following the 2001 attacks in the United States.

Two High Court judges ruled against a challenge to a government decision that the Algerian was ineligible for a Home Office compensation scheme.

He had argued the refusal of bail for him amounted to wrongful detention.

Lord Justice Auld and Mr Justice Wilkie ruled that Mr Raissi's detention was as part of an extradition case that was not "in the domestic criminal process" and thus did not come within the compensation scheme.

His lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, had previously told the High Court there was "not a shred of evidence" against his client, and that the sole reason for his detention was a US extradition request.

Because of my profile of being Algerian, Muslim, Arabic and an airline pilot, I suffered this miscarriage of justice
Lotfi Raissi

Mr Raissi, of Chiswick, has said he was traumatised by his time in custody and that the whole episode had left him unable to pursue his ambition to be a commercial pilot.

He described the judges' ruling as a "body blow".

He was released on bail in February 2002, and, two months later, a judge declared there was no evidence linking him to the attacks.

Mr Raissi wanted compensation from a government fund for those who have been victims of miscarriages of justice, but government lawyers said this did not apply to extradition cases.

Khawar Qureshi, appearing for the home secretary, also argued that the pilot could not claim a payment as an "exceptional case" because he had never been fully exonerated.

Life 'ruined'

Though a judge in Britain had found there was no offence for which he could be extradited, that did not amount to exoneration.

Lotfi Raissi (centre) with his wife and mother in 2002
Mr Raissi was freed in 2002 when a judge threw out an extradition case

The judge's view would not necessarily prevent the US authorities commencing a prosecution "if Mr Raissi were to set foot in America".

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Raissi said: "The Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service are 'domestic', and they played a key role in the extradition proceedings by wrongly naming me as an international terrorist and by ensuring that I spent almost five months in Belmarsh.

"The court's decision allows the home secretary to ignore the part played by those public bodies in ruining my life.

"I have no choice but to keep my faith in British justice and pray that it won't be too much longer in coming.

"The reality is that because of my profile of being Algerian, Muslim, Arabic and an airline pilot, I suffered this miscarriage of justice."



SEE ALSO
Lotfi Raissi transcript
15 Feb 02 |  Newsnight

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