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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Spain arrests al-Qaeda suspects
Osama bin Laden
The Spanish judge has indicted Osama Bin Laden

Spanish police have arrested at least three more people with suspected ties to al-Qaeda as part of an investigation by the judge who indicted Osama Bin Laden.

High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon has formally charged 35 men, including Bin Laden and Arab television journalist Tayseer Alouni, with involvement in the 11 September attacks on the United States.

It is not clear whether the latest arrests, in southern and eastern Spain, were of individuals included on the judge's list but Spanish news agency Efe says all three had links to Mr Alouni.

Mr Alouni, the al-Jazeera journalist who interviewed Osama Bin Laden shortly after 11 September, is among 12 of those charged who had already been arrested by the Spanish authorities.

Judge Garzon called for Interpol to arrest the al-Qaeda leader, whose exact whereabouts are unknown, and extradite him to Spain where some evidence suggests, he said, the 2001 attacks were planned.

In a 692-page ruling published on Wednesday the judge said Spain served "as a place or base for resting, preparation, doctrinising, support and financing" of al-Qaeda.

Also charged was Imad Eddim Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, suspected by authorities of heading an al-Qaeda cell in Spain and arrested in November 2001.

Press reaction

Tayseer Alouni - who holds Spanish citizenship and is being held without bail pending trial - is accused of forming part of al-Qaeda since 1995 and continuing to do so after he joined al-Jazeera in 2000, using a posting in Afghanistan to distribute money to the militant Islamic network, Reuters news agency reports.

Baltasar Garzon

Al-Jazeera insists the Syrian-born Mr Alouni is innocent and has accused the United States and Israel of inciting Spain to incriminate him.

Judge Garzon's announcement of the indictment against Bin Laden provoked a mixed response in the Spanish media on Thursday, with one paper accusing the magistrate of having insatiable hunger for fame.

The daily El Pais said the judge was living up to his reputation for "dramatic effect" by going after more than twice as many suspects as prosecutors had requested - including Bin Laden.

The conservative newspaper La Razon praised Judge Garzon, saying his indictment was "not simply a publicity gesture or an empty hope" but rather the result of a solid investigation.

Judge Garzon is a very well known investigator, who has been involved in several high profile cases in recent years.

Most notably, he spearheaded the campaign to extradite the former Chilean military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, from London to Spain for human rights abuses.

He has also requested the extradition of 46 former officials of the Argentine military regimes of 1976-1983 in relation to the deaths of Spaniards in Argentina during that time.

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