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Ironduke
09 Sep 03,, 01:28
Spain extends Arab reporter's detention

A Spanish judge has given police three days to come up with more evidence to back their claims that a correspondent from the Arabic news channel, al-Jazeera, has connections to Islamic militant operations.
In three hours of questioning by Judge Baltasar Garzon on Monday, reporter Tayseer Alouni denied the claims that he had supported al-Qaeda and helped organise a fundamentalist cell.

But Judge Garzon ordered him to be detained for another 72 hours while police provide evidence to support their allegations. Once the time is up, Mr Alouni will either be formally charged or released.

Police suspect that Mr Alouni gave support to 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 an Islamic fundamentalist cell in the country.

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.

Bin Laden interview

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.

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

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.

He was taken to Madrid after his arrest on Friday.



http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3090460.stm