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Uk pliot wrongly accused sues fbi { September 16 2003 }

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Pilot sues US over 9/11 arrest

A UK-based pilot wrongly accused of training the 11 September hijackers has begun a $20m (12.5m) legal action against the US.
Lotfi Raissi, who spent five months in London's Belmarsh prison, is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Department of Justice.

Arrested at the behest of the FBI, 10 days after two airliners smashed into New York's Twin Towers, Mr Raissi said he was attacked and verbally abused while in prison.

A British court said there was no evidence to back up the US extradition claim and now Mr Raissi wants compensation and an apology for his ordeal.

He is alleging false imprisonment, false arrest and malicious prosecution among other charges.

Algerian-born Mr Raissi has always argued the US planned to make him a scapegoat because he was a Muslim pilot.


Since his release, he has been treated by a psychiatrist and says he is unable to find work flying planes.

My family doesn't deserve to be labelled as terrorists and I didn't deserve five months in prison
Lotfi Raissi
"I can't fly aeroplanes anymore. I've been blacklisted from all airlines," Mr Raissi told BBC News Online. "All I have wanted is to clear my name,"

Had an apology over his treatment been given, he would not be resorting to legal action, he added.

"I'm a victim of the September 11th atrocity. I lost my career and they destroyed my life,"

"It's not for the money, it's the principle. My family doesn't deserve to be labelled as terrorists and I didn't deserve five months in prison."

Solicitor Jules Carey told BBC News Online: "He has certainly suffered psychologically. The case that was ordered against him has been ruinous both professionally and personally.

"At the moment he is unable to find work and as a result of the proceedings he has built up huge debts.

"His father is ill and at the time of the proceedings both him and his family were under huge pressure."

Mr Carey said Mr Raissi's wife had been detained for five days and his brother was detained for three days.

Minor charges

The solicitor said legal action was also planned against the Crown Prosecution Service and police in the UK.

The pilot was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at his home on 21 September 2001.

When no terrorist charges had been brought against him after five months in jail, he was freed on bail.

But the US Government said he was still a suspect and sought extradition for falsifying an application to the Federal Aviation Authority for a US pilot's licence.

But it transpired this charge related only to a spent conviction for stealing a briefcase in 1993 and a knee operation he had not mentioned on the form.

In April 2002, a district judge at Bow Street Magistrates rejected the extradition bid and discharged Mr Raissi.

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