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RESPONSE TO TERROR | NEW THREATS

Seeking His Extradition, U.S. Widens Case Against Algerian Pilot Held in London

November 28, 2001|RICH CONNELL and ROBERT J. LOPEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Moving to strengthen their case for extradition, federal prosecutors in Phoenix announced expanded charges Tuesday against an Algerian pilot being held in London and suspected of having links to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

The 11-count indictment handed down by a grand jury does not accuse 27-year-old Lotfi Raissi of terrorism. But it adds a number of new and more serious charges against the former Phoenix resident, including allegations that he conspired with another Algerian living in Arizona to submit a false application for asylum with U.S. immigration authorities.

Raissi was arrested in September by British authorities on U.S. charges of making false statements on a Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate. At a subsequent hearing, British prosecutors said that Raissi was suspected of overseeing the training of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

At another London hearing Tuesday, British prosecutor Paul Warner, acting on behalf of U.S. authorities, said he had received a U.S. extradition request for Raissi on Friday.

Warner opposed a bail application, saying American investigators believe that Raissi trained at an aviation school with Hani Hanjour, who is believed to have helped take over and pilot American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

British Judge Timothy Workman said the evidence linking Raissi to terrorism was tenuous but ordered him held pending a Dec. 14 hearing.

Raissi denies any connection to terrorism. His attorney, Hugo Keith, said prosecutors had "palpably and openly failed to deliver" evidence that they had claimed would link his client to the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the new charges filed Tuesday in Phoenix, Raissi is accused of lying to help another Algerian, Redouane Dahmani, 26, file a false asylum application last year.

Records show that Dahmani and Raissi lived at the same address in Phoenix.

Dahmani was arrested earlier this month in Arizona by Maricopa County authorities on 33 counts of forgery, perjury and assuming the identity of another person, according to the grand jury indictment.

Among other things, the indictment charges, Dahmani used a forged French passport and the name Abdel Halim Lalami to apply for a driver's license permit. Dahmani also allegedly used the Social Security number of another man and claimed it as his own.

Dahmani is scheduled for a pretrial conference before a Superior Court judge next month.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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