An airline pilot wrongfully imprisoned and accused of training hijackers in the 9/11 terrorist attacks finally won his battle for compensation this week.
Lotfi Raissi, and Algerian-born commercial airline pilot who was trained in the US and living in Britain, was the first person to be arrested after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was held for five months at the Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, but later released due to lack of evidence. An extradition request by the FBI lead to his re-arrest for four and a half months, still without any formal charges. Meanwhile, the media were naming him as the flight instructor who had trained the 9/11 hijackers.
A district judge residing over the case eventually released Raissi in 2002 on the grounds that “the court has received no evidence at all.” Four years after his unlawful detention, Raissi was still seeking compensation, as the government failed to act. Raissi’s legal team had to threaten the government with contempt proceedings until last week the justice secretary, Jack Straw, finally admitted Raissi was “completely exonerated.” However, according to Raissi’s lawyer, Jules Carey, the decision to compensate Raissi on the grounds of exoneration rather than a serious default means that mistakes made by the CPS and Metropolitan police in the case would not be investigated.
But after “nine years of hell,” he is eligible for up to £2m. “I have suffered such a great injustice, I’m grateful for this verdict. They took almost 10 years of my life and now I’m starting to breathe again,” he said.