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Court win for man wrongly accused of terrorism

A flight instructor wrongly accused of training the hijackers of planes used in the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA won his appeal at the Court of Appeal of England and Wales on 14 February 2008.

The Home Secretary must now reconsider Lotfi Raissi’s claim for compensation, in the light of evidence that he was wrongly kept in detention, as a result of “serious defaults” by the UK police and the Crown Prosecution Service.  

Lotfi Raissi has never been charged with any offence related to terrorism. Nonetheless, he spent five months in Belmarsh high security prison while the USA tried to have him extradited.

The extradition request from the US was based on a number of minor charges entirely unconnected with terrorism. The Court of Appeal concluded that the real reason for the request, however, was not to bring Lotfi Raissi to trial on these charges, but to secure his "presence in the US for the purpose of investigating [the attacks of 11 September]."

The Court of Appeal found that the way in which the extradition proceedings were conducted "amounted to an abuse of process" and that they had been "used as a device to circumvent the rule of English law."

Lotfi Raissi spoke to Amnesty International in 2006 about his suffering and struggle for justice: "I’ve been framed as a notorious terrorist until I have to go to court, each time, until I clear my name… What I want to happen is a widely publicised apology, to clear my name and to try to fix all the wrong-doing. I want my life back." The UK government has indicated that it will now consider whether to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal. Lotfi Raissi is still waiting for his apology.

Background

Lofti Raissi is a UK resident of Algerian origin. He was arrested on 21 September 2001 on suspicion of involvement in "terrorist" activities in relation to the recent attacks in the US. The arrests were made on the basis of information supplied to the UK authorities by the US administration.

He was released after seven days’ questioning and immediately re-arrested on the basis of a warrant requesting his extradition to the US. He was then detained for five months in Belmarsh Prison. In April 2002, a judge ordered his release, stating that the court had received "no evidence at all" to support the allegation that he was involved in "terrorism" – a finding now repeated by the Court of Appeal. He has been fighting for compensation and for a public apology since then.