The Algiers Connection

Sofaine Laimeche's long friendship with a 9/11 suspect has put his future in America in doubt

The 2002 Congressional report, which showed the FBI was very suspicious of Raissi, came seven months after Collingwood's statement.

On February 22 of this year, Raissi lost a major battle in Britain's High Court when he was denied the right to seek compensation for his prison time.

Reached by telephone at his home in London, Raissi denied he trained the hijackers at all, even inadvertently. The United States should admit it was wrong about him, he says.

Martha Strachan
Martha Strachan

"I'm an innocent person," he tells New Times. "Six years after, and I'm still trying to clear my name."

Raissi says he has the utmost respect for his old friend Laimeche.

"Sofiane is a man of principle," he says. "He used to help people. If he has $10, he would give it to you."

He hopes to see Laimeche again someday.

One of Raissi's British lawyers, Jules Carey, says there is still hope that the U.S. arrest warrant will be lifted, and an appeal of the High Court's February decision is possible.

"Hopefully, it's not the end of it," Carey says.

Laimeche is having problems with his DirecTV installation. The one channel he wanted, a Spanish-language sports station, is not one of the 250 offered by the Total Choice Plus package. In fact, it doesn't appear to be offered by DirecTV at all. It's about noon, and the soccer game he wants to see starts at 12:30.

Sofiane has been home for weeks because of hernia problems.

A couple of years ago, Laimeche and his wife moved into a big, two-story house near Southern Avenue and 44th Street.

His two youngest children run amok while Baba, as they call Sofiane, deals with a reporter and the DirecTV technician while trying to straighten up after the kids.

The house has no particular Arabic or Muslim feel. A typical wooden dining room table stands on a tile floor. Toys and a pair of socks are strewn here and there. Laimeche's cleaning pace is slower than his kids' ability to tear things up.

When the kids' waterplay goes from backyard to kitchen, Laimeche orders them upstairs to their room.

Laimeche says his children are his life now. If he's to change the world, it will be through them. Of paramount importance is their Muslim faith.

"If they are not Muslim, I have failed," he says.

He says he tells his oldest child that even if she becomes a doctor, if she is not a committed Muslim, "it will mean nothing to me."

He sends his children to Muslim school four times a week. He says they aren't afraid to talk about Islam, or even to comment negatively about someone's beer purchase at the grocery store (alcohol is forbidden in Islam).

In his precarious position, Laimeche knows he has no power to really fight for his faith in this country. But he says his children will not be so weak. They will be able (and, he hopes, willing) to fight for Islam's rightful place in American society.

His little boy has returned to the kitchen and is sitting on the counter. He hugs Baba, and they stare into each other's eyes with affection.

Laimeche hands the twentysomething DirecTV guy a soda and some cookies.

Corinne's not home, but she has made bean soup for lunch for Sofiane and the kids.

Laimeche figures out that DirecTV offers another Spanish sports channel he likes. The dish is mounted in the eaves, and Laimeche signs a contract with the cable guy for a year.

It's another good day in Arizona.

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