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Al Jazeera reporter to remain in Spanish jail

From Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish court Monday ordered al Jazeera correspondent Taysir Alony to remain in prison, just ahead of the expected verdict in a major trial in which he is charged with being a member of al Qaeda.

"Due to the advanced state of the (court's) deliberations, it is not considered prudent to modify the precautionary measure adopted" last Friday, which sent Alony back to jail after he had been allowed to remain at home for months for medical reasons, the court said in a ruling, a copy of which was viewed by CNN.

Alony, a Syrian-born Spaniard, is one of the 24 al Qaeda suspects in a trial whose verdict is expected to be announced next week. Three of the suspects, although not Alony himself, are charged with helping to plan the September 11 attacks.

Alony recently asked the court for permission to go to Syria to attend the funeral of his mother, but authorities last Friday refused and ordered him back to jail.

Alony's lawyer challenged that decision and on Monday, the judges in charge of the al Qaeda trial ruled that he should remain in prison, although they also instructed prison officials to take special note of his medical condition.

Alony, 50, has a heart condition, the court said.

On the first day of the trial, last April 22, the presiding judge agreed to release Alony from prison, for health reasons, although he remained a defendant and could face nine years in jail if convicted.

Alony has professed his innocence. He is charged with carrying funds for terrorist elements, stemming from the time before he joined al Jazeera in 2000. Alony is well-known for his reporting from Afghanistan, and in 2001 he had an exclusive interview with Osama bin Laden less than two months after the September 11attacks.

The three-judge panel of the National Court, which is conducting the trial, also held on Monday that another defendant, Jamal Hussein Hussein, must remain in jail ahead of the verdict. Like Alony, Hussein had been out for medical reasons - arterial hypertension in Hussein's case - but was detained again last Friday.

Hussein also faces nine years in prison if convicted of belonging to al Qaeda.

Alony and Hussein were the only defendants out on medical grounds. Six other defendants remain out of jail ahead of the verdict, while a total of 18 now are in jail, a court spokeswoman told CNN.

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