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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Spain keeps Arab reporter in jail
Tayseer Alouni
Alouni shot to fame during the US-led Afghan conflict

A Spanish judge has ordered a correspondent from the Arabic news channel, al-Jazeera, to remain in jail without bail as police investigate his alleged links with al-Qaeda.

The order followed the expiry of a 72-hour extension of Tayseer Alouni's arrest.

Under Spanish law, Judge Baltasar Garzon had until Thursday to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to keep Mr Alouni in detention or else release him.

During three hours of questioning by the judge on Monday, the reporter denied claims that he had supported al-Qaeda and helped organise a Muslim fundamentalist cell.

Mr Alouni was arrested on Friday at his holiday home in Alfacar, a southern town near Granada.

He has said he delivered money to Syrian exiles in Afghanistan and Turkey as a gesture of solidarity, but denied supporting terrorists.

A celebrated correspondent, he was one of the few reporters allowed to work under the Afghan Taleban regime and interviewed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in October 2001.

Arrest challenged

Police suspect that Mr Alouni gave support to a suspected militant, Edin Barakat Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah.

Mr Yarkas was arrested in Spain in November 2001 on suspicion of being the leader of a Muslim fundamentalist cell in the country.

Baltasar Garzon

Mr Alouni's arrest has drawn criticism from Arab human rights groups and his colleagues at the Qatar-based channel have called on Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to release him.

"On several occasions Western journalists met secretly with secret organisations and they were not subjected to any legal actions because they were doing their job, so why is Alouni being excluded?" they wrote in a letter published in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper.

The warrant for his arrest accuses Mr Alouni of involvement in "the organisation of, support for and infrastructure of this cell", the al-Jazeera website reported on Saturday.

Mr Alouni also stands suspected of "supplying al-Qaeda with funds in Afghanistan", where he was an al-Jazeera correspondent during the 2001 US-led war which put an end to Taleban rule, the website reported.

Mr Alouni, Syrian by birth but now a Spanish passport-holder, was arrested on the last day of a two-month holiday with his family in Spain as he was preparing to return to Doha, where the Qatari news channel is based.

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