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Spain High Court Indicts 35 Alleged Members of al-Qaida - 2003-09-17

In Spain, a High Court judge has indicted Osama Bin Laden and 34 other alleged members of the al-Qaida terrorist network, accusing them of involvement in terrorist acts, including the September 11 attacks in the United States. The indicted men include a journalist from the al-Jazeera satellite channel. Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón has accused the 35 suspects of belonging to a terrorist organization, tax fraud, possessing illegal weapons, forgery, and other crimes.

The whereabouts of 16 of those indicted, including Osama Bin Laden, are not known, and the judge issued international arrest warrants for them.

Eleven of the accused are under arrest in Spain, and are being held without bail. One of them is the al-Jazeera satellite channel journalist Tayssir Alluni. He was arrested near Granada on September 8, and his detention was extended last week by Judge Garzon.

In a more than 700-page ruling, Judge Garzon pointed out that terrorism is one of the crimes included in Spain's universal justice legislation. This legislation allows the prosecution in Spain of people accused of offenses like crimes against humanity, even if they were committed elsewhere.

But in this case, the judge says some of the planning for the September 11 attacks took place in Spain. One of the terrorist leaders, Mohammed Atta, visited Spain in July of 2001. Police believe he held a meeting at that time with other participants near Tarragona in northeastern Spain.

The indictment also says Spain has served as a base for the indoctrination, preparation, support and financing of al-Qaida agents. More than 40 Islamic extremists have been arrested in Spain as suspected al-Qaida operatives. But all have been released for lack of evidence, except the 11 who have now been indicted.

Judge Garzon has been investigating Islamic extremists in Spain since 1995. His first case was a suspected cell working out of a mosque in Madrid.