‘They were sending me to the US for an execution, I will never forgive that,’ said Algerian pilot Lofti Raissi yesterday, after winning the right to claim damages from the UK government.
Raissi was held for over four months in Belmarsh Prison while being considered for extradition to the US, after being wrongfully accused of training the pilots of planes used in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
He said outside the Court of Appeal: ‘I have been completely exonerated.
‘I always believed in British justice and justice is what I got.
‘Since the day I was in Belmarsh Prison I never thought I would see this day today.
‘Now after today’s judgement, I would ask the Home Secretary to provide me with the rightful apology for the part he did play in destroying my life and my career, and destroying the name of my family.
‘Finally, I would like to thank all my family, for all the faith they showed in me, my lawyers, my team and the people who believed in this country in my case, and the people overseas and abroad.’
He added: ‘Since the day I was in Belmarsh I was expecting extradition.
‘The Home Secretary played a part in this, sending me to the US for an execution.
‘I repeat that, sending me to US for an execution.
‘I will never, ever forgive that, they did that to me.’
James Welch, legal director of Liberty told News Line: ‘Luckily for Mr Raissi he was arrested before the new extradition arrangements under the Extradition Act 2003 came into force.
‘If he were arrested now he would have been whisked off to the US without the possibility of a British court considering the strength of the charges against him.
‘His case also shows how easily the authorities can persuade themselves of a need to detain someone for terrorism on the basis of the flimsiest of suspicion.
‘Our parliamentarians should bear this case in mind when considering whether to increase pre-charge detention.’
In giving the courts judgement, Lord Justice Hooper said: ‘The public labelling of the appellant as a terrorist by the authorities in this country, and particularly by the CPS, over a period of many months has had and continues to have, so it is said, a devastating effect on his life and on his health.
‘He considers that, unless he receives a public acknowledgement that he is not a terrorist, he will be unable to get his life back together again.’
Raissi has said his claim will include compensation for the time spent in prison and the money he paid to train as a pilot, estimated at about £60,000.
He is currently not working and says he is blacklisted from working for any airline. He also intends to claim for compensation for the loss of his career.
Raissi says he also plans to claim for damage to his health and the general effect on his life.
The Algerian pilot was arrested under the Terrorism Act at his home in the UK soon after the 11 September attacks. He was accused of having trained the 19 hijackers.
After seven days he was released but was re-arrested under a US extradition warrant.
He remained in Belmarsh Prison for four-and-a-half months until he was granted bail.
In April 2002, a judge ruled that there was no evidence connecting him to terrorism.
• Second news story
STEPHEN LAWRENCE CENTRE RANSACKED
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said yesterday he was ‘disgusted by this racist attack’ on a building dedicated to the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence in south-east London, only a week after it was officially opened.
Six large windows at the Stephen Lawrence Architectural Centre, in Deptford, were smashed causing £120,000 worth of damage in the early hours of yesterday.
Livingstone said: ‘I am disgusted by this racist attack on the Stephen Lawrence Centre.
‘This latest outrageous act of racism follows several others over the past few months on the centre.
‘It also comes on the anniversary of the inquest that confirmed Stephen’s death to be an unprovoked racist murder, and will be even more distressing for his mother Doreen, who has fought to establish this cultural landmark for the whole community.’
The centre was built to inspire young people to pursue careers in architecture, the career path Stephen hoped to follow, and was designed by award-winning architect David Adjaye.
A Met Police spokesperson said: ‘Hundreds of windows are broken each week in London and this is a minor investigation.
‘A member of the public has suggested it was racially motivated so we have to investigate it as such.’