Algerian pilot accused of training hijackers is freed on bail

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The Independent Online

An Algerian pilot arrested in Britain and accused of training four of the 11 September hijackers will not face any terrorism charges, the United States announced yesterday.

Lotfi Raissi, 27, who had been described as the "lead instructor" of the suicide hijackers who crashed into the Pentagon, was freed on bail.

Mr Raissi, who has been held in jail for five months, emerged from the top-security Belmarsh magistrates' court in south-east London to applause from his family and friends.

Lawyers representing the American government had claimed they had video evidence and telephone records proving a direct link between Mr Raissi and four of the hijackers, including the ringleader.

He was the first person to be accused of participating in the attacks, and US authorities said he was likely to be charged with conspiracy to murder.

Yesterday James Lewis, representing the US government, told the court: "The United States does not presently intend to seek the extradition of Mr Raissi on terrorist charges. One must assume that there will not be terrorist charges."

Mr Raissi, who lives near Heathrow airport, was told he faced extradition only on two counts of falsifying an application for a US pilot's licence.

District Judge Workman gave Mr Raissi bail on the condition that his family provided £10,000 in surety. He would also have to surrender his passport and not apply for international travel documents. The judge said he was allowing bail because America was unlikely to bring terrorism charges.

Since Mr Raissi was arrested at his home in Colnbrook, Berkshire, on 21 September, his family have denied he was involved in the 11 September attacks. After his release, his family and lawyer accused the FBI and the American authorities of pursuing an innocent man and ruining his life.

Mr Raissi's brother Mohammed said: "The FBI said to the world he was a big terrorist and they have to now say to the world that this man is innocent. They've destroyed his life, his future and his dream."

Mr Raissi's wife, Sonia, added: "My message to the FBI is, 'You arrested him for terrorism so why do you want to extradite him for these ridiculous, minor charges?'. They should drop the charges and say sorry to him."

Mr Raissi is to appear before Bow Street magistrates in London on 28 March for a further extradition hearing.

¿ Two more British prisoners have been moved to Camp X-Ray in Cuba, the Foreign Office has confirmed. Ruhal Ahmed, 20, from Tipton, West Midlands, and Jamal Udeen, 35, from Manchester, were transferred from Kandahar in Afghanistan late on Monday. It brings the total number of Britons at the camp to five.

Mr Udeen, a website designer, has denied involvement with al-Qa'ida terrorists and claimed he was arrested and tortured by Taliban supporters.