Govt to compensate Algerian accused over 9/11

Britain agreed Friday to compensate an Algerian pilot wrongly accused of training the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Ministry of Justice said.

Lotfi Raissi said he was “delighted” at the news, although he said his nine-year battle through the courts had always been to clear his name and seek an apology for his wrongful arrest and five-month detention.

“I’m completely exonerated now by the minister of justice and I’m delighted,” Raissi told the BBC shortly after the announcement.

“My life was destroyed, my career was destroyed. I can’t even find the words. It was hell for me and for the last nine years.”

The British resident added that the battle to clear his name was “not a question about the compensation”, saying: “I was fighting for justice and what I want at the end of it is an apology.”

Raissi was arrested 10 days after the 9/11 attacks when Islamist extremists hijacked four planes, slamming two into the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon in Washington, and downing one in Pennsylvania.

He was eventually released in February 2002 and a judge ruled there was “no evidence” to suggest his involvement, completely exonerating him.

In May 2008, the government lost its battle against a court ruling allowing Raissi to seek compensation, and last month, the Court of Appeal gave the justice ministry 28 days to make a decision on his case.

“In accordance with the decisions of the Court of Appeal of February 2008 and March 2010, and after careful consideration of all the relevant material available to him, the justice secretary, Jack Straw, has notified Mr. Raissi that he is eligible for compensation,” a ministry statement said.

It added that an independent assessor would now be asked to consider how much Raissi should be paid.

Raissi said he hoped he could now “turn the page” and resume his career as a pilot.