Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 18:20 UK

9/11 arrest pilot Lotfi Raissi wins compensation battle

Lotfi Raissi says it has been the best day of his life'

A pilot wrongly accused over the 9/11 attacks in the US has won his legal battle for compensation.

Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian-born British resident, was arrested in the UK shortly after the attacks amid claims that he was a key member of the plot.

He was held in custody for nearly five months before being released when a judge found there was no evidence to link him to any form of terrorism.

The Ministry of Justice has said Mr Raissi is "eligible" for compensation.

It is believed that the claim could run into thousands of pounds.

'Matter of principle'

Mr Raissi told the BBC: "My life was destroyed. My career was destroyed... It was hell for my life the last nine years."

He said he hoped to be able to resume his career in aviation but added: "It was a struggle, struggle, struggle, for the last nine years - especially in and out of court and fighting for justice."

He said he was delighted and that the Ministry of Justice decision "exonerated" him but he still expected an apology.

"It's not a question about the compensation, it's a matter of principle. I was fighting for justice and what I want at the end of it is an apology."

The shabby treatment of this innocent man is a chilling reminder of why we all need the protection of the courts.
James Welch
Liberty

Two years ago the Court of Appeal said Mr Raissi was the victim of the "heightened emotional atmosphere" at the end of 2001 and ordered ministers to consider compensating him.

Last month the court said that Justice Secretary Jack Straw had 28 days to decide once and for all whether the government would compensate the pilot.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it had written to Mr Raissi "and after careful consideration of all the relevant material available" had decided to let him know he could apply for compensation.

"The Independent Assessor, Lord Brennan QC, will now be asked to consider the amount to be paid to Mr Raissi. Ministers play no part in determining the amount," the spokesman said.

LOTFI RAISSI CASE
1997: Qualifies as commercial pilot in the US
Attends flight school in UK to further his career
21 Sept 2001: Lotfi Raissi arrested at London home
28 Sept 2001: Released then rearrested on extradition request
12 Feb 2002: Released from prison
24 April 2002: Judge quashes extradition request
June 2004: Applies for compensation
14 Feb 2008: Court of Appeal orders ministers to consider compensation
26 March 2010: Court of Appeal tells the government it has 28 days to decide whether to compensate

Mr Raissi was arrested at his home near Heathrow Airport 10 days after the attacks on the US.

He was released a week later - but then arrested again after the US issued an extradition request.

He spent four-and-a-half months in London's Belmarsh Prison, one of the maximum security jails used to hold terrorism suspects.

Mr Raissi won his case in April 2002 when a judge said there was no evidence against him.

But Mr Raissi said the allegations had profoundly affected his life and stopped him from being able to get another job.

Mr Raissi said he wanted a meeting with Mr Jack Straw following his exoneration.
Jules Carey from Tuckers Solicitors, who represented Mr Raissi, said: "The allegations of terrorism were utterly ruinous to him both personally and professionally."

James Welch, legal director of human rights charity Liberty, said: "The shabby treatment of this innocent man is a chilling reminder of why we all need the protection of the courts."

The BBC's Andy Tighe said Mr Raissi was arrested and held during the days and weeks after 9/11 when there was a "very strange climate of fear around the world".

He said lawyers and officials would decide on the amount of compensation Mr Raissi was due, but the pilot's main concern would be on how to rebuild his life and start flying again.



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SEE ALSO
Profile: Lotfi Raissi
14 Feb 08 |  UK
Lotfi Raissi transcript
15 Feb 02 |  Newsnight

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