Britain to pay compensation to former 9/11 suspect


Britain agreed to pay compensation to an Algerian pilot who was put in jail for five months after he was wrongly accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Lotfi Raissi was arrested 10 days after the attacks on New York and Washington, threatened with extradition to the United States and put in a maximum security prison because US police thought he had been involved in the al Qaeda plot.

But the allegations against him proved to be false and he was later released. Raissi has been trying to clear his name ever since, saying he had been blacklisted from all airline jobs and that his life had been ruined.
“This is one of the best days of my life. I am completely exonerated now by the Ministry of Justice and I am delighted,” he told BBC TV. “My life was destroyed, my career was destroyed. It was hell for me for the last nine years. I suffered discrimination, I suffered racism, and my life wasn’t safe.”

The British-based Algerian had studied at a flight school in Arizona and US officials believed he was linked to the hijacker who crashed an airliner into the Pentagon.

A British court later dismissed the accusations, ruling the allegations were unsubstantiated, and the pilot began his bid for compensation.

This was rejected by the British government in 2004 but four years later, the Court of Appeal ordered ministers to reconsider saying the way extradition proceedings and refusal of bail had been conducted amounted to “an abuse of process”.

Last month the court gave the government 28 days to decide what action it would take and a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that he would now receive compensation.
“In accordance with the decisions of the Court of Appeal…and after careful consideration of all the relevant material available to him, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw has notified Mr Raissi that he is eligible for compensation,” a spokesperson said.

An independent assessor will consider how much he should be paid, but Raissi said the money was not important.
“I was fighting for justice. What I want at the end of it is an apology,” he said, adding he hoped to be allowed to fly again.