Accused reporter relates Bin Laden interview
16 May 2004, MADRID — Accused television reporter Tayssir Alluni recounted how he interviewed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden weeks after 9/11 and told a Spanish court he was innocent of charges linking him with the terrorist group.
16 May 2004
MADRID — Accused television reporter Tayssir Alluni recounted how he interviewed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden weeks after 9/11 and told a Spanish court he was innocent of charges linking him with the terrorist group.
Syrian-born Alluni, 50, and who interviewed Bin Laden for the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network on 21 October 2001, is accused of having links to several key figures including Mamoun Darkazanli.
Darkanzali is believed to be Al-Qaeda's financier in Europe.
The prosecution alleges Alluni received thousands of dollars to pass on to al-Qaeda operatives from Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, thought to have headed the group's Spanish cell.
But it was the reporter's exclusive scoop with Bin Laden five weeks after the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people which propelled Alluni into the limelight.
He told the court how the interview came about after an emissary made contact in October 2001.
Alluni said: "He said: 'I've come on behalf of Osama Bin Laden'. He just said he was an
emissary, full stop."
He appeared relaxed in an open-necked shirt and dark jacket as he described himself as "an independent journalist working for Al-Jazeera".
After putting feelers out, Alluni said a fortnight later he was told he had some visitors.
"There are people asking for you -- they are at the door," security personnel told him in Afghanistan.
Alluni explained further: "They said if you want to cover an important story come with us. Get in the car".
After being blindfolded and driven off for more than two hours the "important story" was waiting for him.
He said he told the al-Qaeda leader: "I am interested in putting questions on your ideology" and duly did so, adding that his host said "thanks for coming -- excuse the conditions".
Earlier, Alluni denied claims he had links with key al-Qaeda operatives.
The journalist added while he had spoken to a whole range of people in his capacity as a reporter, many of the calls logged by investigators were "innocent calls".
He said many consisted of acquaintances asking him about his wife and family.
Alluni quoted extracts from several of the calls, such as "I hope your family are in good health," or "I hope you have resolved your problems".
Spain's leading anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon charged Alluni, who took out Spanish nationality in 1988, in September 2003, accusing him of using his position as a journalist to pass information to suspected al-Qaeda operators.
He is likewise accused of having links to Mustafa Setmarian Naser, who Garzon alleges ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
Garzon insists that his detention followed collation of evidence which suggested Alluni had engaged in activities "which have nothing to do with his profession of journalist".
The prosecution alleges he had "links with members of a criminal organisation".
Alluni is also alleged to have links with Mohamed Galeb Kalaje, believed to have financed a Spanish-based al-Qaeda cell which police dismantled after 9/11.
Prosecutor Pedro Rubira is calling for Alluni to be handed a nine-year sentence.
The Madrid trial began of 24 men accused of belonging to al-Qaeda's Spanish cell. Three are also accused of plotting 9/11. They denied the charges.
The trial is due to last until the end of June.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news