America's 11 September suspect freed by British court

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The Independent Online

An American attempt to extradite a British-based pilot alleged to have trained the 11 September hijackers failed yesterday when a judge ruled there was no evidence he was a terrorist.

Algerian-born Lotfi Raissi walked free from Bow Street magistrates court after the judge threw out the United States authorities' last remaining charge that he failed to declare a knee injury on his pilot's licence application.

Lawyers for the US government immediately said it would continue to investigate Mr Raissi as a suspect.

Richard Egan, his solicitor, said the case had been based on trivial allegations that had not been substantiated. He was flanked by Mr Raissi, who burst into tears as he left court, and his wife, Sonia. "Mr Raissi ... and his family have had to endure the finger of suspicion being pointed at them. At the very least one would hope for an apology. It is time the whole sorry farce came to an end," the solicitor said.

Mr Raissi, 28, was arrested on 21 September in bed at his home in Colnbrook, near Heathrow airport, and held in Belmarsh prison, south-east London, on suspicion of being the "lead instructor" for four of the 11 September hijackers, including the suspected ringleader Mohammed Atta.

He was the first person to be arrested in relation to the attacks and US authorities said he was likely to be charged with conspiracy to murder. They claimed to have video evidence of Mr Raissi in Arizona with the pilot who flew into the Pentagon and telephone records linking him and the hijackers. The footage turned out to be of Mr Raissi and his cousin.

* The Charity Commission announced yesterday it had suspended the Muslim cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri from his position at a London mosque because of "inflammatory statements".