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ALGERIA - Feb. 12 - Raissi Freed On Bail.

Lotfi Raissi, an 27-year-old Algerian pilot once identified by US investigators as the "lead trainer" of the Sept. 11 hijackers, is freed on $14,200 bail from the Belmarsh maximum security prison in south-east London after the US abandoned an effort to extradite him on terrorism charges. (The decision to release Raissi represented an embarrassing setback to US efforts to bring alleged supporters of the Sept. 11 attackers to justice. Every attempt by US authorities to link Raissi to the Sept. 11 attacks has been disproved or withdrawn during five months of extradition hearings since his arrest on Sept. 21 at his home near London's Heathrow airport). The British lawyer representing the US authorities James Lewis said: "At the moment one must assume that there will not be terrorism charges brought against him. The United States does not presently intend to seek the extradition of Mr. Raissi on terrorism charges". Raissi now faces two counts of falsifying an application for a US pilot's licence. (Raissi was the only high-profile accused terrorist jailed in direct connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The only other prominent suspect, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested weeks before the attacks, is facing trial in the US. Washington initially asserted that Raissi had been closely associated with Hani Hanjour, the Sept. 11 terrorist thought to have flown a hijacked airliner into the Pentagon).

On Feb. 14, Raissi urged Washington to drop residual holding charges against him, saying his five months of detention without trial had been a "living nightmare". He said: "I am a pilot, an Algerian and a Muslim and proud to be so, but this is not a crime... The law says that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In my case, I feel as though the world perceived me as a guilty man and that I had to try and prove that I was innocent. The ordeal I have been through has changed my life and the life of my family forever and nothing will ever change that... You cannot begin to consider what it is like to have the world's media, along with the government of the United States, believing that you are responsible for the most dreadful act of terrorism the world has ever seen". He said he was "totally sympathetic to the suffering of the American people caused by the appalling tragedy that occurred on 11 September, but I would also like to add that I have become, in turn, a victim of that atrocity".
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Title Annotation:Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Feb 16, 2002
Previous Article:ALGERIA - Feb. 11 - Militant Leader Killed.
Next Article:BAHRAIN - Feb. 14 - Kingdom Of Bahrain Established.

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