UK agrees to compensate man wrongly accused of terrorism

Amnesty International has welcomed a move by the UK authorities to compensate Lotfi Raissi, a flight instructor who was wrongly accused of training the hijackers of airplanes used to carry out the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001.Following his arrest in September 2001, Raissi spent five months in prison in Belmarsh high security prison while the USA attempted to have him extradited on minor charges unconnected with terrorism.  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”. The UK Ministry of Justice told Lotfi Raissi via his lawyer on Friday 23 April 2010 that it considered him “completely exonerated”, more than eight years after he was first arrested. The agreement, which came on the last possible day permitted by a 26 March 2010 judgment by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, allows Raissi to apply for compensation. The final amount will be determined by an independent assessor.Lotfi Raissi told Amnesty International via his lawyer on Friday 23 April, “I am delighted. I have waited for this for nine years. I hope that this government statement will help get rid of the cloud of suspicion that has hung over my life for so long.”In March, the Court of Appeal found the UK authorities’ “inordinate delay” to reconsider Raissi’s compensation claim to be characterized by a “high degree of unreasonableness”. Lotfi Raissi’s lawyer, Jules Carey, said to Amnesty International on Friday that “the allegations of terrorism were utterly ruinous to Mr Raissi both personally and professionally” and that he hoped that the decision to compensate Lotfi Raissi “marks a new chapter in his life and that his rehabilitation will begin.”The Court of Appeal had earlier ruled on 14 February 2008 that the authorities must reconsider Lotfi Raissi’s claim for compensation. The Court said the extradition proceedings “amounted to an abuse of process” and had been “used as a device to circumvent the rule of English law”. Lofti Raissi was arrested on 21 September 2001 on the basis of information supplied to the UK authorities by the US administration of former President George W Bush.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 never charged with any offence related to terrorism and extradition procedures appeared to have been launch to secure his presence in the USA so that the  11 September attacks could be investigated.