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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Court rejects US bid to extradite pilot
Lotfi Raissi at a London press conference
Lotfi Raissi has always denied any terrorist links
A court in London has rejected a bid by the American Government to extradite a British-based pilot who they say is a suspect in the 11 September investigation.

US officials had accused Algerian-born Lotfi Raissi, 28, from Colnbrook, Berkshire of training some of the hijackers.

Mr Raissi has always denied any terrorist links.

On Wednesday a district judge at Bow Street Magistrates Court said he had seen no evidence to support allegations of terrorism.

"There was no deception because it was as if there were no previous convictions

Edward Fitzgerald QC

Timothy Workman said: "I discharge the defendant on all eight charges.

"Several allegations involving terrorism have been made but I would like to make it clear that I have received no evidence to support that contention."

But James Lewis QC, for the US government, said Mr Raissi would "continue to be subject to ongoing investigations into those associated with the 11 September attacks".

Mr Raissi was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at his home on 21 September last year.

'No deception'

But when no terrorist charges were brought against him after five months in jail, he was freed on bail.

But the US Government said he was still a suspect and sought extradition for falsifying an application to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for a US pilot's licence.

Mr Raissi had not declared a previous conviction for theft and a knee operation.

The court heard he had been convicted in 1993 of stealing a briefcase and its contents. He was fined 150 and 30 costs at Uxbridge Magistrates Court.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, defending, said he was entitled under English law to treat the offence as a spent conviction.

"There was no deception because it was as if there were no previous convictions."

He said there was no evidence to suggest that if Mr Raissi had declared the conviction that it would have prevented him being granted a licence.

'It's ridiculous'

Mr Fitzgerald told the court that the knee surgery had not been mentioned in the application for a medical certificate because it had been disclosed in an earlier application for a certificate.

"If Raissi said, 'what about the knee surgery', they would have said, 'yes we dealt with that last year'.

"It's ridiculous. There is no case to answer."

James Lewis QC, prosecuting, told the court that the deputy regional flight surgeon at the FAA said he might have dealt with Mr Raissi "in a different manner" if the conviction and surgery had been made clear.

But Mr Fitzgerald said: "Might is never enough.

"It has to be that it would have made a difference and no-one has said it would have made a difference."

Algerian pilot Lofi Raissi
"The ordeal I have been through has changed my life"

Click here to go to London
See also:

12 Feb 02 | England
Accused pilot released on bail
28 Sep 01 | England
Terror suspect held on US warrant
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