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UK denies bail to hijack-link pilot

By Producer Jim Boulden

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi -- linked by authorities to one of the suspected September 11 hijackers -- has been denied bail by a British High Court judge, who called the case a "difficult problem."

Raissi was arrested at his London home on September 21 on a request from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has since been linked by prosecutors to Hani Hanjour, the suspected pilot of American Airlines Flight 77.

This jet, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, was one of four commercial U.S. jets that were hijacked and crashed that day.

The United States has repeatedly indicated it will eventually file a "conspiracy to murder" charge against Raissi.

Raissi's lawyers were appealing against a November 27 rejection of bail, saying the U.S. government has not formally presented any evidence that Raissi helped those alleged to have carried out the terrorist attacks.

After two hours of arguments, the judge said there was sufficient material presented to believe that Raissi may have a "terrorist background" and would likely flee if released.

But the judge admitted that the accusations in the extradition request would not normally lead him to believe a defendant would fail to appear for a trial, so continuing to hold Raissi was a "difficult problem."

Raissi has been indicted in Arizona for falsifying information on a Federal Aviation Administration form in June and for allegedly helping a fellow Algerian, Redouane Dahmani, falsely apply for political asylum in 2000.

Raissi has not been indicted for any terrorist acts and the official U.S. extradition warrant is based only on the current indictments.

But British prosecutors, acting on behalf of the U.S. government, revealed for the first time that the phone number of an apartment in Phoenix used at different times by Raissi and Dahmani was found in the address book of suspected terrorist Abu Doha.

Doha, an Algerian currently held in a British jail, was indicted earlier this year in New York City for his part in an attempt to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999 as part of a larger "millennium bomb plot" allegedly organised by al Qaeda.


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