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Spanish Judge Orders al-Jazeera Reporter Jailed for Ties to al-Qaida - 2003-09-11


A High Court judge in Spain has decided to keep a correspondent for the Arab TV network al-Jazeera in jail on suspicion of being an al-Qaida agent.

Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón has ordered the imprisonment without bail of journalist Tayseer Alouni, a star reporter for the Arab television network al-Jazeera. The court ruled Mr. Alouni has aided Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Born in Syria, Mr. Alouni has had Spanish citizenship for 16 years and has maintained a residence near the southern Spanish city of Granada.

He became famous in the Arab world for interviewing Osama bin Laden soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Afterward, he reported regularly for al-Jazeera on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was arrested last Friday on suspicion of providing money and information to al-Qaida operatives. Police seized written and electronic documents in his residence dealing with the terrorist network. Under Spanish law Judge Garzon had to justify his arrest or release him by Thursday.

In a 23-page ruling, the judge said there is evidence Mr. Alouni became part of an al-Qaida cell in Spain in 1995 and worked closely with the cell's leader, known as "Abu Dahdah," who was arrested in Spain last year for his alleged involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The judge said that, as an Al Qaida agent, Mr. Alouni contributed to the group's terrorist activities, both inside Spain and elsewhere. He did this by passing on money and providing information, taking advantage of his role as a journalist.

Mr. Alouni, 56, has denied allegations that he collaborated with terrorists. He said documents referring to al-Qaida seized at his residence were connected with his work as a journalist, and that he took money to people in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the spirit of Muslim solidarity.

Spain was a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and made dozens of arrests of suspected al-Qaida operatives in the past two years.

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