Saturday, September 06, 2003

The big news from Spain today is the arrest by Judge Baltasar Garzon's order of Al-Jazeera journalist Taysir Alony, accused of being a member of Al-Qaeda. Though a Syrian national, Alony was legally resident in Spain because of his marriage to a Spanish national. He was arrested yesterday at his house in Granada, and will be charged on Monday by Garzon. According to La Vanguardia, this forms the fourth phase of Garzon's grand Operation Date (Datil - meaning the fruit of the date palm, not a calendar date). The first action was the arrest of thirteen suspects in November 2001, of whom eight are still in prison awaiting trial. Second phase was in April 2002, with the arrest of further suspects and the exposure of part of Al-Qaeda's financing ring. Third, in July 2002, the arrest of three Syrian suspects in Madrid and the seizure of videos from before 9-11 (in fact, from 1997) showing potential targets: the Golden Gate in SF, the Statue of Liberty and of course the WTC. "Sources close to the judge" say that Alony couriered these target videos to Bin Laden some time in 1997. What is not in dispute is that Alony was Al-Jazeera's resident reporter in Afghanistan until the Afghan War of 2001, and that he was the first to interview Bin Laden after 9-11. Last June 8, Alony appeared as a speaker in a seminar organised at the University of Complutense, where he suggested that both Bin Laden and Saddam were dead.

So far Judge Garzon has published no hard proof against him, but we shall see. Keep you posted on this. Murph.

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