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A Reporter Ensnared by Spain's Anti-Terror Laws

The Railroading of Taysir Alony

by LAMIS ANDONI

When Madrid was struck with the heinous terrorist attack on March 11, it was Taysir Alony who conveyed the tragedy of blood and loss to millions of Arab speakers all over the world. In his serene demeanor and warm voice, Taysir told us about grief stricken Spaniards who lost loved ones in a matter of few seconds to a massacre of steel and fire that traumatized Madrid and the rest of the country.

He reminded the audience that Spain was hit in spite of the presence of a strong opposition to the war in Iraq and demonstrated in interviews with Spaniards in their own voices, the travesty of terrorism as a blind and arbitrary tactic that spares no innocents regardless of ethnicity and color. Yet today Taysir stands to be sentenced on charges of links with a terrorist organization. The same organization suspected of committing the March 11 atrocity.

As a colleague of Taysir I have mixed feelings of hope and deep concern. Hope that he will be found innocent and walks away as a free man and concern that he would be convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment or more.

I strongly believe in Taysir’s innocence but I am very aware that he could be sacrificed to a nationaland international atmosphere of fear and loathing as exceptional laws against terror are either invoked and enacted undercutting the due legal process.

Spain has distinguished itself by insisting on combating terrorism through its court system. This is deeply appreciated but as Human Rights Watch noted on Feb 1st, 2005, the measures against terrorism, as applied in "the Spanish Qaeda cell" were a violation of human rights and did not guarantee "a fair trial".

Today the verdict will be announced. As a colleague of Taysir I have followed the trial broadcast livewith simultaneous translation on Al Jazeera Live Channel : I beg to differ with the prosecutor’s evidence to Taysir’s guilt.

As a journalist I was astonished, by the focus on Taysir’s exclusive interview with Osama Bin Laden, obtained few weeks after the September 11 attacks, during the hearings but especially in the closing statements. I found it alarming that the prosecuter Mr.Pedro Rubiro was using a journalistic interview as evidence.

"He (Taysir) sounded as if he is talking to his boss (Bin Laden)", Mr Rubiro asserted.

On what basis did the prosecutor make his conclusion?

The interview was neither watched by the court nor has Mr. Rubiro ordered it as evidence. A reading of the interview’s transcript, as published by CNN, clearly proves that Taysir has delivered a highly professional performance challenging Bin Ladens statements on Islam’s position on killing of civilians, fighting Jews and Christians, and pointed out that the Afghan people were paying a high price as a result of Al Qaeda’s presence in their country.

But none of that was told to the court or to the Spanish people. Instead the prosecutor claimed that Bin Laden favored Taysir for his close ties with Al Qaeda. Bin Laden did not choose Taysir but did choose Al Jazeera and CNN to give the interview and not Taysir. Tasyir was representing both Al Jazeera and CNN–a fact that widely publicized at the time.

It is equally amazing that the prosecutor would conclude that Taysir’s role and answers about the interview during the hearings convinced him of the correspondent’s guilt. Taysir’s was asked whether Afghans had though he was a member of Qaeda to which he honestly answered that ordinary Afghans thought that most if not all Arabs in their country were members of the group. Unless I missed something I cannot see a self-indictment in that reply.

The second charge is that Taysir channeled money to Al Qaeda. Taysir did deliver $4500 to an Arab family living in Afghanistan. There was a plenty of time to double check the story.Yet instead assumptions were made without launching what could have been an easy investigation. In an atmosphere of presumed guilt and fear assumptions became facts that were used to condemn a man and his family. What was produced at best was flimsy evidence that does not convince Taysir´s colleagues or those who know him. I wish the prosecutor had asked his Spanish crew, who have known Taysir, before making assumptions of culpability based on the dangerous notion of "guilt by association".

These are trying times indeed. Governments feel obligated, as they should, to protect their people, from carnages as those of New York, Madrid and London. As a colleague of Taysir I appeal to the Spanish court not to send an innocent man to jail.

LAMIS ANDONI may be reached at: lamisandoni@yahoo.com


























CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled "A Saudiless Arabia" by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the "Article"), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the "Website").

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005