Sept. 11 Suspect Found Not Guilty in Britain

LONDON?The extradition case against an Algerian pilot once described by U.S. authorities as a trainer for the Sept. 11 hijackers fell apart Wednesday when a British judge ruled the United States had not provided sufficient evidence the man was involved in terrorism?or had committed any crime.

It was the first Sept. 11 related case outside of the United States to crumble since the attacks. The defendant, Lotfi Raissi, had been free on bail since February.

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 daylong hearing at Bow Street Magistrate’s Court in London that U.S. authorities had provided no evidence Raissi was linked to 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.”

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to say whether the United States would continue to seek Raissi’s extradition.

“The court has ruled, and our investigation into the events of September 11th continues,” he told The Associated Press in Washington.

Raissi’s family cheered the decision.

Raissi’s lawyer, Richard Egan, said Raissi’s legal team was contemplating legal action against the U.S. government or British police. “After exhaustive inquiries by the FBI and our own police, nothing has been substantiated, ” Egan said.

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.

In other news, despite their fall from power, a half-dozen key Taliban leaders pose a threat to U.S. interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere and remain high on America’s target list.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, heads the list. He vanished from Kandahar as U.S.-backed forces rolled in.

In February, he was believed to be in the mountains of central Afghanistan, near the town of Bagram. He is not thought to be with Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader whose location remains a mystery. A top Omar aide, Tayeb Agha, is also wanted by U.S. forces.

Another key figure who has survived is Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former U.S. ally and the Taliban’s former minister of frontier affairs. Since the war in Afghanistan, he has been supporting efforts by al Qaeda and Taliban fighters intent on regrouping, U.S. officials say.

The officials believe Haqqani was working closely with al Qaeda field commander Abu Zubaydah, who was said to have been driving the terrorist network’s efforts to reconstitute itself from Pakistan, with an eye toward conducting new international terrorist attacks. Abu Zubaydah was captured March 28, but Haqqani was not found.

Military officials said capturing Taliban leaders remains a priority since they command enough followers to threaten American interests.

British Royal Marines, Canadian light infantry and units of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division are searching for surviving Taliban and al Qaeda leaders and fighters in Afghanistan.