Case dropped against pilot suspected of training hijackers

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Associated Press WriterLONDON (AP) -- Extradition proceedings against Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi -- once described by U.S. authorities as a trainer for the Sept. 11 hijackers -- were dropped Wednesday after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence.

Judge Timothy Workman turned down a U.S. request seeking Raissi's extradition on lesser charges of lying to the Federal Aviation Authority when he filled out a form seeking to extend his pilot's license in April 2001.

Workman also said during the day-long hearing at Bow Street Magistrate's Court in London that U.S. authorities had provided no evidence to link Raissi with terrorism.

"He has appeared before me on several occasions where allegations of involvement with terrorism were made," Workman told the court. "I would like to make it clear that I have received and the court has received no evidence to support such a contention."

No further extradition proceedings were planned against Raissi.

His family cheered and Raissi hugged several of his relatives on hearing the news.

However, James Lewis, prosecuting on behalf of U.S. authorities, told the court that Raissi "continues to be the subject of an ongoing investigation into those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. That is a separate matter."

Raissi was arrested 10 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At the time, prosecutors said he was one of their most important terrorism suspects in custody.

But they began backing away from those allegations early this year and he was released on bail in February -- nearly five months after his arrest -- when the United States conceded it couldn't link him to terrorism.

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