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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
Anger at top Arab reporter's arrest
Tayseer Alouni
Alouni shot to fame during the US-led Afghan conflict
Arabic news channel al-Jazeera has condemned the arrest of its correspondent Tayseer Alouni by police in the southern Spanish city of Granada.

Mr Alouni was detained at his home on the orders of Judge Baltasar Garzon on suspicion of links with al-Qaeda as part of an investigation into Islamic militant operations in Spain.

The Qatar-based television channel said it had contacted human rights organisations for support

"There are other journalists who have relations with al-Qaeda suspects and there are other networks who air tapes and statements from al-Qaeda," the channel's editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Hilal, told the Associated Press.

"Why is al-Jazeera's correspondent the one arrested then?"

Bin Laden interview

A celebrated correspondent, Mr Alouni became well-known throughout the Arab world for his work in Afghanistan during the US-led war there.

Anyone can have acquaintances who are linked to al-Qaeda, and this is not a crime
Ibrahim Hilal, Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief
He was one of the few reporters allowed to work under the Taleban regime and interviewed Osama Bin Laden in October 2001.

"Anyone can have acquaintances who are linked to al-Qaeda, and this is not a crime," Mr Hilal said of his correspondent.

"It is only a crime when these relations are used in an illegal way and not when they are used for journalistic purposes."

Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Blut told the AFP news agency that the network had appointed a lawyer to defend Mr Alouni.

Denial

Mr Alouni, Syrian by birth but now holding a Spanish passport, was arrested at his home by police with a warrant, his wife Fatima said.

"Police in civilian clothes came to our door with a warrant to search the house and to arrest Tayseer..." she said.

BALTASAR GARZON
Baltasar Garzon

She dismissed the allegations against him and saying: "This is not true."

Police sources said Mr Alouni had been taken to Madrid after his arrest at noon on Friday.

The sources said Mr Alouni was suspected of giving support to Edin Barakat Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah, who was arrested in Spain in November 2001 on suspicion of being the leader of an Islamist fundamentalist cell in the country.

Mr Alouni is expected to appear in court on Monday.

A report on al-Jazeera's website said the organisation had been informed by Spanish intelligence sources that Mr Alouni was being held under anti-terrorist laws and so could be held for three days while being questioned without access to a lawyer.

A number of suspected al-Qaeda members have been arrested in Spain since the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington.

Some have been accused of links to the attack and remain in custody but others have been released because of lack of evidence.




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