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Accused journalist ‘was critical of Bin Laden’

9 June 2005

MADRID — An Al Jazeera reporter charged with aiding Al-Qaeda had criticised Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks on the United States, a court was told.

Spanish journalist Carlos Hernandez, called as a witness by attorneys for defendant Taysir Alony, said the two men met while on assignment in Afghanistan, Qatar and later Iraq.

Asked about whether they had ever spoken about 9/11, Hernandez said that Alony told him once that terrorism seemed to him to be the “wrong road”.

He said: “He looked down on violence to achieve objectives because he thought it was brutality toward the victims and counterproductive for the Arab cause.

“He also thought that the United States was wrong in its attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, but that the way to resist all that was not terrorism because the victims were blameless and the only thing they would do would be to take more reprisals on and direct more hate toward the Arab people.”

Regarding Osama bin Laden, the Spanish journalist recalled that Alony remarked to him that “the only thing he had done was to harm the Muslim people”.

Hernandez was giving evidence to the mass trial of 24 people accused of being members of Al-Qaeda. Three are also accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

With respect to the interview that the Al Jazeera reporter conducted with Bin Laden in Afghanistan in October 2001, Hernandez said he too would have done the same.

He said after the 9/11 attacks, the Al Qaeda chief was the world’s “most sought man, including by journalists”.

After their assignments in Iraq, Alony returned to Qatar and Hernandez to Spain and, when they talked every now and then by telephone.

Hernandez said the defendant told him he had the feeling he would be indicted on terrorism charges if he returned to Spain.

Alony told him that he wanted to return to Spain because his wife and children were there, but “he was afraid” that he would be arrested “up until one day he told me that he had nothing to fear, or to hide, and he would return to Spain”.

He was later arrested.

The Syrian-born Alony is accused of providing logistical support to Al Qaeda.

Earlier, Hernandez said he saw defendant Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas together with 9/11 suicide pilot Mohammed Atta and attack planner Ramzi Binalshib on the Barcelona subway in June 2001.

Yarkas, accused of heading an Al Qaeda cell in Spain, is also one of three defendants at the Madrid trial accused of aiding the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The witness said that he saw Yarkas, Atta and Binalshib board a train in a metro station in Barcelona one morning in “the first half of June 2001,” but he could not specify the exact date.

He said he saw three men get onto the train on which he was riding, and these men “upon entering really attracted my attention” because in the summer they were wearing identical, brand new black leather jackets”.

Hernandez said that he observed the men closely because as a professor at a school of fine arts he considered himself “very observant” and, besides that, “there were very few people” in the subway car.

Judicial sources said that the court did not feel his testimony was key for demonstrating Yarkas’ alleged connection with 9/11 because, among other things, Hernandez provided no corroboration of any kind for his statements.

In fact, the prosecution itself has presented evidence and testimony that puts Atta in Spain about a month later than the other alleged sighting.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news