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Al-Jazeera reporter ordered jailed

By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

Allouni: Alleged to have collaborated with suspected al Qaeda ringleader.
Allouni: Alleged to have collaborated with suspected al Qaeda ringleader.

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish judge has ordered Al-Jazeera television correspondent Tayseer Allouni to remain jailed unconditionally on a charge of belonging to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"The facts described here could constitute a possible crime of membership in the Spanish cell of the al Qaeda terrorist organization," Judge Baltasar Garzon wrote in his 23-page court order.

Allouni interviewed Osama bin Laden in October 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks. However, the judge's court order said Allouni's alleged criminal activities in helping al Qaeda were done "outside of his role as an Al-Jazeera journalist."

The judge went on to say that "while it is true the possible participation of the accused is not directly related to the most serious deeds of murders, kidnappings, etc. of al Qaeda, it is a terrorist organization that continues to get help -- not only from its traditional members in Afghanistan -- but also from third-level sleeper cells.

"That is why the continuing criminal activities of its members need to be neutralized," the judge said.

The order from Garzon accuses Allouni, 56, of collaborating with a man considered to be an al Qaeda ringleader in Spain. That man has been in jail for nearly two years awaiting trial.

Allouni, a Syrian-born naturalized Spanish citizen, was arrested last Friday at his home in southern Spain and appeared in court Monday, when the judge postponed until Thursday a decision on whether to keep him in jail or release him.

Allouni's lawyer, Manuel del Prado, said he was "surprised" by the judge's decision, which he described as "incredible." Before the ruling was issued, he had told CNN that he expected Allouni to be released from jail, possibly on bail.

But bail is not permitted under the judge's order, Allouni's lawyer said, although Allouni will not be held "incommunicado," meaning he can have visits from his lawyer and family in jail.

The Brussels bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Ahmad Kamel, told reporters outside the Madrid courthouse that Allouni is a journalist, not a terrorist. Kamel said the Qatar-based Arabic TV channel would work hard to defend the innocence of Allouni, who has reported for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Allouni, who did not appear in court Thursday, is being held in Soto del Real jail about an hour northwest of Madrid. No bail has been set, according to the court order.

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