Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Barry George, Lotfi Raissi and the lies in the archives

The libel damages paid to Barry George by the News Group Newspapers over articles suggesting he was a murderer and a stalker are only the beginning in trying to get the public record corrected. There are still dozens of stories repeating those lies easily available on the internet, including on the websites of other UK newspapers.

Shouldn't steps be taken to remove them, without George having to go through another legal process?

It is another example of what happens when a lie gets published, then repeated and then it just enters urban myth. Recently we have seen this with the kids playing conkers must wear goggles nonsense, and that rubbish about the Bolivian saved from deportation by his cat.

Another example is that of Lotfi Raissi.

One of the most shameful cases of recent history, Raissi was the first man arrested for the attacks on 11 September 2001.

In an excellent report in the Guardian last month, Paul Lewis explained:

After a raid on his home, he would be described as the "lead instructor" of the hijackers, responsible for training four pilots to fly planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and spend the next five months in Belmarsh high-security prison in south-east London awaiting extradition to the United States.

Raissi was innocent. The court of appeal ruled that law enforcement officials 'circumvented' the law to keep Raissi locked up, and has since waged a long, hard battle with the Government to receive both an official apology and compensation.

If you search for Raissi's name on the Sun website, you will still find several articles containing the lies spread about Raissi.

Yes, it has the quote marks and 'alleged' in place, but there's no doubting the impression Pilot 'trained hijackers' gives. The following day saw Crew 'were taught in UK':

The story says:

A pilot living in Britain was accused in court yesterday of training four of the suicide hijackers who carried out the terror attacks on America. One of those instructed by Algerian-born Lotfi Raissi was the maniac who crashed American Airlines’ Flight 77 into the Pentagon, it was said... London’s Bow Street court was told investigators had video footage, phone records and correspondence linking him directly to the hijackers... Prosecutor Arvinda Sambir said: “What we say is that Mr Raissi was in fact an instructor. He was a lead instructor for four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings.

And the picture is of Raissi in a cockpit, just to hammer the point home.

In February 2002, when Raissi was released, The Sun still implied guilt with misleading headlines such as:


Even when Raissi - and his brother Mohammed - were exonerated, the Sun focused on the compensation they were going to get, rather than any campaign on the gross miscarriage of justice:

And despite everything he'd been through, the MySun people weren't happy:

Five months in prison, stabbed twice, accused of involvement in the biggest terrorist atrocity ever and he's a 'spongeing get' (sic).

The following day, another version of the same story went with this headline:

Not 'Innocent man' but still the nudge-wink '9/11 suspect'. And the 'millions' is designed to cause outrage. It worked:

The archives on the Mail site are limited to six stories, the most recent from 2002, and none which really make clear his innocence, or his recent court victories. The article 'Detained pilot threatens legal action' begins:

A pilot held in a high-security jail for five months on suspicion of training the September 11 suicide hijackers today threatened legal action against the British and American authorities

thus conveniently failing to state he's innocent. They add he had:

demanded an apology

with the use of 'demanded' clearly suggesting something that's somehow unreasonable.

That article also says:

Mr Raissi claims he was threatened by both inmates and guards after his picture was published on the front page of a newspaper under the caption "the terror instructor".

The Independent adds:

Beneath banner headlines proclaiming him as "The Terror Instructor", Mr Raissi was described as the "mastermind" who had taught four of the 11 September terrorists to fly. He was, for many, evidence of an "alarming" British connection.

Not sure which paper that front page headline belonged to - Google and the newspaper websites are not coming up with anything - but in any case it would have been seen by millions of people. And it appears the PCC has not (publicly) dealt with any complaint from Lotfi Raissi either.

Given what that story accused him off, it seems only right that the same paper should print a front-page retraction. As should The Sun and News of the World about all the very serious claims made about Barry George. Indeed, front page corrections should be automatic for front page lies, and hopefully the PCC will move towards that after the current Code review.

Online stories such as those at The Sun on Raissi and the Express on George, which are still pushing false claims, should also be removed.

As for Raissi, one can only hope he gets the apology he deserves, and can then get on with his life.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure that stories shown to be false should be deleted; there is a value in them preserved for the historical record. A more appropriate solution might be for them to be edited with a banner stating the nature of the falsehood and making all readers aware that the story was shown to be false.


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