Islamic Human Rights Commission
17 February 2005
ALERT: Free Aljazeera Reporter, Taysir Alouni
2. Suggested Action
Taysir Alouni is a reporter for AlJazeera who is currently in prison in Spain on charges of membership of a “terrorist organisation”. Alouni, a Syrian-born Spaniard, was arrested in September 2003 in his home in Granada, but 5 weeks later was released on bail, after the court heard his health was suffering. He was rearrested in November 2004 and has been in custody without bail ever since.
Alouni has repeatedly denied allegations that he has any connection to al-Qaida and that he took part in operations of financing al-Qaida and in recruiting activists. The allegations stem primarily from an interview conducted by Alouni with Usama bin Laden in October 2001, during which the latter called for jihad. But Spanish investigators also have used wiretap evidence to present their case. Alouni claims that his conversations have been mistranslated due to his Syrian dialect. He has expressed his readiness to explain “point by point” the telephone calls that took place between him and presumed members of al-Qaida.
Taysir Alouni is credited as being the only journalist based in Afghanistan in October 2001 to show the world what the US war machine was doing to one of the world\’s poorest countries. His coverage triggered international outrage over the US action in Afghanistan. Alouni also covered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and miraculously survived the US bombing of the Aljazeera Baghdad bureau which killed his colleague, Tariq Ayub. Due to his work in Iraq and Afghanistan, Alouni was awarded a peace prize in December 2003 by the Francsica Mateos foundation, a Spanish NGO dedicated to international cooperation and social work in Spain. Previous recipients of the award include exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In awarding him the prize, the Foundation stated, \”You are not only innocent, you are a good professional, a hero and an example to be followed.\”
Alouni is being kept in horrific conditions. His imprisonment conditions are such that his health has deteriorated significantly. He is being kept in a tiny cell (2.5 by 1.6 m). He is also being subjected to near total solitary confinement and not allowed outside his cell except for two hours in the morning and two in the evening, and even this is only into a small space in which he is not allowed to see more than five inmates on the strict condition of not engaging in any form of conversation and under close guard. The temperature in the cell where he is being kept is very cold reaching below zero at times. The heating is only switched on for two hours a day which has severely aggravated the back pain Alouni suffers from. He is only allowed two visitors a time which means that he is deprived of seeing his entire family together. Alouni suffers from an acute heart condition and had recently undergone a heart Catharsis operation. Any prolonged captivity would put his life in jeopardy.
In late January 2005, Alouni asked for “conditional release”. He argued that there is no risk that he will leave Spain because all of his family are Spanish and his four children live and go to school in Spain. Furthermore, Alouni has contended that he has no interest in escaping because he will lose his professional credibility.
His imprisonment is symbolic of the witch-hunt taking place against Muslims all over the world. Numerous Western journalists, including Robert Fisk, have interviewed Usama bin Laden and many other unsavoury characters; yet none of them have been charged, arrested or imprisoned for membership of a terrorist organisation. Why has Taysir Alouni been singled out for this treatment? Imprisoning a journalist for doing his job is a grave violation of freedom of the press, so often lauded as a symbol of democracy.
1. Send a letter of support to Taysir Alouni
Taysir Kate Alony (Preventivos
Centro Penitenciario Madrid 2
Carretera De Meco Km, 5
Alcalá De Henares – Madrid
2. Send a letter to Judge Baltasar Garson demanding that Mr Alouni be released immediately. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Contact the relevant authorities below urging them to immediately release Taysir Alouni on bail on humanitarian grounds. He suffers from serious health problems and is being detained in extremely harsh conditions. Explain your belief that Mr Alouni is totally innocent and will comply with his bail conditions and present himself on the trial date to the Spanish courts.
Address: Palacio de la Zarzuela 28071, Madrid, Spain
Complejo de la Moncloa 28071, Madrid, Spain
4. Send a letter to the Foreign Secretary in your country raising your concerns about the latest stage in the persecution of Muslims and those who dare stand by them. A sample letter can be found below.
5. Contact the High Commission of Human Rights calling for them to intervene for the release of Alouni who is the latest victim of the neo-McCarthyism which has infected the world since 9-11.
Ms Louise Arbour
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Genève 10
6. Write letters to national and international newspapers expressing your outrage at what is happening. Your individual letter may not be printed but if enough people write, the chances of one of those letters being printed are highly increased.
7. Sign the petition calling for Taysir Alouni to be freed. You can sign at http://www.freetayseer.com/signe/
8. For more information on Taysir Alouni’s case, please see the following links
Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Dear Mr. Straw:
RE: Spanish Imprisonment of al-Jazeera reporter, Taysir Alouni
I am writing out of deep concern about the continuing witch-hunt of Muslims throughout the world as part of the ‘war on terror’, and in particular the imprisonment of Aljazeera journalist, Taysir Alouni in Spain.
Mr Alouni has been detained in horrific conditions in Spain since November 2004. He faces charges of membership of a terrorist organisation. Much of the “evidence” stems from Mr Alouni’s interview with Usama bin Laden in October 2001 and his journalistic contacts in al-Qaeda. As you are probably aware, it is part and parcel of investigative journalism to make contacts with people at the centre of a story, regardless of how unsavoury they may seem. If journalists ought to stand trial for interviewing individuals suspected of terrorism or war crimes, then hundreds of American and European journalists should also line up in courts. Even the respected Western journalist, Robert Fisk, has interviewed Usama bin Laden. Yet, only Taysir Alouni has been singled out for this kind of treatment.
I strongly urge you to raise these concerns with your Spanish counterparts and demand that Taysir Alouni be freed immediately on bail. Such shocking treatment of a respected reporter who was simply doing his duty, is symbolic of the extent to which traditional civil liberties and democratic values such as the freedom of the press are rapidly evaporating in Western society.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,
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Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75
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