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Hijack-link suspect in tears

Lotfi Raissi
Raissi at an earlier hearing  


By Producer Jim Boulden

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British magistrate has denied bail for Lotfi Raissi, the Algerian pilot linked by authorities to one of the suspected September 11 hijackers.

But magistrate Timothy Workman said on Friday the United States must pursue charges against him or bail will be considered in a month's time.

Raissi, who was arrested at his London home on September 21 on a request from the FBI, broke down and sobbed throughout the 20-minute hearing at Belmarsh magistrates court in southeast London on Friday.

He was remanded into custody until his next hearing on February 12.

Prosecutors have linked Raissi to Hani Hanjour, the suspected pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which flew into the Pentagon.

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The U.S. has repeatedly indicated it will eventually file a "conspiracy to murder" charge against Raissi, and it has filed a request for his extradition.

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 terror acts and the official U.S. extradition warrant is based only on the current indictments.

The judge in the case has expressed frustration that the United States has presented no evidence linking Raissi to terrorism.

He said Washington must indicate quickly whether it will pursue further charges against Raissi, or the judge will entertain an application for his bail at the February 12 hearing.

"I still have concerns that I have not been given as much information as I would expect at this stage," Workman said. Looking at the current charges, he added, "It's a case that merits bail."

Raissi's lawyer Hugo Keith: "The time has come to put up or shut up."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said under the current charges, Raissi probably would not be eligible for the death penalty.

But the issue has raised questions in Britain regarding Raissi's case and those involving terror suspects.

Britain is required by national law, and as a signee of the European Human Rights Convention, not to extradite anyone to a country where a suspect could receive the death penalty.

The United States has not signed the convention.

Britain is just one of several European countries involved in the war on terror that have expressed concern over the use of the death penalty in the United States.

Parliament would have to rewrite its death penalty law or make emergency provisions if it wanted to extradite a suspect to a country where the death penalty could be imposed.

British prosecutors, acting on behalf of the U.S. government, have revealed 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 was indicted last year in New York 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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