Free Alluni now

THE ongoing trial of Al Jazeera reporter Taysir Alluni in Spain is a litmus test of Western values. Alluni has been languishing in a Spanish prison for the past several months on trumped up charges. He is accused of having links with the Al Qaeda groups in Spain.

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Published: Wed 18 May 2005, 10:05 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:47 PM

Alluni is one of the most well known faces of the Arab TV and has covered many important conflicts including Afghanistan and Iraq. His was the only independent and authentic voice during the US invasion as he brought home the war as it happened in the rugged mountains and devastated cities of Afghanistan. If his fearless reportage won him many an admirer around the world, it managed to create quite a few enemies, too — most of them in high places. It was no coincidence that during the Afghan offensive, the Al Jazeera offices in Kabul were bombed. Alluni and his crew managed to survive though.

When the September 11 strikes on America took place, Alluni happened to be in Afghanistan. And soon after the 9/11 strikes, he was the first reporter to interview Osama bin Laden, which was to become part of history.

This rare access to top Al Qaeda terrorists is now being held as ‘evidence’ against Alluni. The fact that many of those Bin Laden tapes Al Jazeera has been broadcasting with irritating frequency for the West had been routed through Alluni may have added to the suspicions about the star reporter.

But as Alluni pleaded yesterday, his having occasional contacts with Al Qaeda sources was part of his job and not because he had joined the terrorist conspiracy against the West. It hardly need pointed out to the Spanish authorities that a journalist in the course of reporting has to contact and interact with many including those who may have a criminal or anti-social background. So if Alluni had ever contacted or interviewed the extremist groups, it must not be construed as if he was part of the terror network. He was only doing his job as a journalist and reporter who has to report what he sees or hears.

Alluni is not a terrorist and the authorities in Spain by now know it. There is no evidence to prove that he is part of the Al Qaeda. If Alluni were an Al Qaeda foot soldier, he would be wielding the terrorist’s gun, not the journalist’s pen.

The Al Jazeera reporter has suffered enough incarcerated as he has been all these months in a Spanish prison. He is being punished for saying the truth as it is. He is reported to be very ill and suffers from a rare heart condition. Spain must set him free and do it soon. Alluni’s case has put to test the West’s much celebrated respect for freedom of expression and civil liberties. Alluni must be freed in the interests of a free media, and justice.

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