Support Taysir Alouni

by Yvonne Ridley –
September 18, 2003

I have never met Taysir Alouni but I have thought a lot about him over these last few days. In fact we both have quite a lot in common even though we are from quite different backgrounds. Apart from working for Aljazeera we both share a great passion and dedication for the job that we do.

We have also experienced what it is like to come under fire from Britain and America being the only journalists in Kabul on the night of 7 October 2001 when the bombing of Afghanistan began. I was locked in a Taliban prison cell in the capital while Taysir was free to cover the start of George Bush's war on terror. He had a near miss when a missile smashed into his Afghan office and I had a lucky escape when I was set free.

Sadly, we now have something else in common. We have both been incarcerated for doing nothing more than the job we love. My ordeal at the hands of the Taliban lasted only 10 days and I pray that Taysir's imprisonment in Spain will not be for much longer.

There is no greater punishment for a journalist than to be caged and isolated from the outside world because a few people do not like the news you produce.

I can't begin to tell you how wretched and isolated he will be feeling wondering if anyone outside the prison walls really cares about his plight. He will be confused and angry wondering how this could happen to him? And indeed, we should all ask that question and demand an answer.

He will be wondering when the nightmare is going to end.

No evidence has been produced against Taysir by the Spanish authorities other than wild accusations just because he is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Usama bin Ladin. Loved or loathed, there is not one single journalist worth his or her salt, who would turn down THAT interview. Just for the record, I have been trying since 1998 to interview UBL, and I can tell you now Taysir would not have achieved his goal without lots of hard work, effort, contact-buildings and sleepless nights: the hallmarks of a good journalist.

The trouble is, with good journalists like Taysir, people in positions of power and authority do not like them. They fear their integrity and do not want the truth to be brought to their breakfast table or, more importantly, anyone else's, including yours. These people want to control the media and censor the news to stop you from finding out what is really happening in our world today.

Good journalists make many enemies and I am sure Taysir is no exception. I'd like to bet that it is because of these enemies that he is now in the fix he is in.

The Spanish authorities are allowing themselves to be used in this mindless, endless war on terror where human rights are being carpet-bombed on an almost daily basis. Investigative magistrate Baltasar Garzon has formally accused Taysir, a Syrian-born Spaniard, of terrorist activity, and ordered him held without bail. This blatant abuse of human rights could continue for up to four years.

The truth is, Baltasar has been fed false information delivered by intelligence agencies from Israel and the United States, the very same two countries which produced a dodgy dossier on me to try and convince the Taliban I was also up to no good. Thankfully, the Taliban were clever enough to see through this clumsy attempt to blacken my reputation. I just can't understand why the Spanish authorities are taking so long over this latest dodgy dossier.

Taysir's arrest is illegal, unethical and outrageous. If it can happen to him, it can just as easily happen to you.

Please e-mail Judge Garzon at his personal address: and demand Taysir's immediate release.

Yvonne Ridley is a senior editor at Aljazeera and can be contacted at: . She is also a founder member of Women in Journalism, a member of the National Union of Journalists and the International federation of Journalists.

Extracted 09/28/03 from Montreal Muslim News Network


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