REPORTER: Bronwyn Adcock
This home video, filmed a few months ago, captures the precious few minutes Taysir Alluni has been given to say goodbye to his family. Unexpectedly, the police have turned up at his home with orders to arrest him.

WOMAN (Translation): No goodbye for me?

Alluni, a journalist with the Arab network Al Jazeera, recently finished facing trial on charges of belonging to al-Qa'ida. Until now he was free on bail.

WOMAN (Translation): The hearts of everyone in Al Jazeera are with you. We'll be thinking of you.

Now he's being taken away to a prison cell in the Spanish capital, Madrid, to wait for the judge's verdict in two weeks time. If convicted, he won't be home again for nine years.

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): Yes, we can now hear a very loud explosion, Gamil.

For millions of viewers around the Arab world, it was Al Jazeera correspondent Taysir Alluni that brought the war in Iraq into their homes.

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): The American forces also conduct raids, and carry out arrests for no obvious reasons, conduct searches and seize money and belongings.

A hero in the Arab world, but viewed with suspicion by some in the West who saw Alluni and Al Jazeera as anti-American.
During the war in Afghanistan, Alluni managed to get good access to the enemy of the West, the ruling Taliban.

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): It took an Al Jazeera crew five hours to reach the site of the two planes that the Taliban brought down. On our way, we saw some wreckage and some of the pilots' equipment that Afghans call 'prizes'. The Pentagon Ministry admitted that a helicopter had crashed. It has also admitted that there were four casualties. This helmet probably belongs to one of them. As for this plane, it's believed to be a spy plane, but no-one has mentioned anything about it.

In late 2001 Alluni scored a world exclusive - the first interview with Osama bin Laden since the 9/11 attacks on America. Two years later, he was accused of belonging to the very organisation he reported on.
Syrian by birth but now a Spanish national, Alluni was arrested in Spain. Along with 23 others, he was put on trial in what's been billed as the biggest al-Qa'ida trial in Europe. The arrest outraged Al Jazeera.

MAN (Translation): Taysir's detention is shameful by any standard.

The station proclaimed their reporter's innocence on air. Taysir's colleagues believe he's being persecuted because he got access to the enemy of Western powers.

WOMAN (Translation): The public is sympathetic to a journalist whose case poses a big question mark or the question "If he were a Western journalist, would he pay the same price, or is it because he's an Arab Muslim journalist?" Is reaching Osama bin Laden a crime for a journalist?

Al Jazeera believes the arrest of Alluni is yet another assault on their network. Ever since the war on terror began, Al Jazeera has faced criticism from both Western and Arab governments. Their offices have even been shelled by the Americans in Baghdad and Kabul - attacks the US says were a mistake.
The popular network is currently banned from reporting in Iraq.
Alluni's lawyer is Jose Luis Galan Martin.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN, ALLUNI'S LAWYER (Translation): This is the only interpretation. It amounts to persecution - an attack on freedom of the press. The aim is to shoot the messenger.

The Spanish authorities deny this. A large part of their case is based on taps of Alluni's phone, including in the years before he became a famous correspondent. They recorded conversations he had with other Syrians in Spain who were suspected of belonging to al-Qa'ida. They say these contacts implicate him in a Spanish terror cell. Alluni's lawyer disagrees.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN (Translation): I've said previously that Alluni's relationships with people suspected of participation in al-Qa'ida were purely the sort formed by migrants of common Syrian origin. Spain's Syrian community isn't that big. They all know each other, especially those who arrived in the 1980s.

Martin says there is no incriminating evidence at all in the phone taps. He believes the content was reinterpreted once Alluni fell under suspicion because of his reporting.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN (Translation): There have been multiple interpretations, absurd interpretations. For example, when they speak about the pair of trousers which Alluni's wife supposedly mended for a neighbour who was single. The police maintain that the term "pair of trousers" is hiding something criminal. When he asks some friends to provide him certain things and he's referring to honey, oil and other foodstuffs, they claim that has to involve something criminal too.
If a person is a suspect, you can give those terms whatever criminal or pejorative meaning you want. And that's what the police did time after time.

In this climate of suspicion Alluni's lawyer says some of the evidence used against him was ridiculous. He cites as an example a note found during a raid on Taysir's house that appeared to be demanding money from Al Jazeera.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN (Translation): The wording was a little incoherent and it was signed 'Osama'. This was submitted by police as evidence. This was a document written by Taysir's son Osama, who at the time was 11, and who as a joke, after letting his father do a job for Al Jazeera on his computer, felt that Al Jazeera should rewards him with so many million dollars. That was submitted as evidence.

Juan Aviles Farre is an academic from a Spanish think tank that specialises in security. He thinks there is evidence against Alluni, though agrees it's largely circumstantial. He says this is due to the very nature of terrorist groups.

JUAN AVILES FARRE (Translation): The problem you encounter when you are dealing with these terrorist groups is the very difficult problem of evidence. We're facing this problem in trials all over Europe. There have been cases where there is evidence. But it doesn't stack up in court because none of them - Alluni, Abu Dahdah - not one has been detained, let's say, with a bomb under his bed. The only evidence is the record of taped conversations, the movements of money, and travel. This kind of evidence is very difficult to work with.

One of the specific charges levelled against Alluni was that he took US$4,000 to a suspected member of al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan. In court, Alluni admitted taking the money, but says it was a favour for a Syrian woman in Spain, and this person had nothing to do with al-Qa'ida.
The United States Government has also weighed in to the trial of the Al Jazeera correspondent. Immediately after Alluni was arrested the US Embassy in Spain sent this document to Spanish police.

"According to information received from a detained member of Al Qa'ida who knows the organisation well, it was very well known inside al-Qa'ida that Taysir Alluni was responsible for external media communications for al-Qa'ida."

The letter offered no details about who this prisoner was, where he was held or how he knew this information.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN (Translation): To let this evidence count in reaching a verdict would bring worldwide shame. I sincerely hope that the outcome of the trial won't be based on such nonsense. But unfortunately what all that nonsense does it to help create, to establish, a situation of generalised suspicion.

Alluni and his lawyer believe the real reason he's on trial is for his interview with Osama bin Laden.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN (Translation): We all know my client stands accused of all these things due to the Bin Laden interview. That is the only interpretation. It amounts to persecution.

During the trial, the prosecution did focus heavily on how Alluni got access to the world's most wanted man.

LAWYER (Translation): Can you give us the background to the Bin Laden interview?

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): A messenger came and said, "I'm here on behalf of Osama bin Laden."

LAWYER (Translation): When you say a messenger, do you mean from the Taliban?

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): No, he was an Afghani who turned up claiming bin Laden had sent him, period.

LAWYER (Translation): I was asking if, apart from this interview, either before, whether bin Laden ever made contact with you.

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): Yes, on 7 October, two hours after the bombing started. Yes, the office security guard received a tape. I was broadcasting live from the office rooftop, reporting on the bombing which by then was very intense.

LAWYER (Translation): Apart from that, have you ever had any other communication from Osama bin Laden or other militant members of al-Qa'ida or from bin Laden's people?

TAYSIR ALLUNI (Translation): No, only from the Taliban.

Alluni's supporters don't dispute that he had good contacts in Afghanistan. They point out he was reporting from that country for a year before the US-led war.

LAMIS ANDONIS, AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST: You develop this relationship and access, or else you are a fool and you're not a good journalist if you don't.

One of the key issues that's emerged out of this trial is how far a journalist can go in associating with Islamic radicals before this becomes a criminal act. In his closing statement to the court, the prosecutor said Alluni crossed the line.

LAWYER (Translation): It's my belief that we are in the presence of someone, who in order to obtain the sort of benefits he did, has in fact been of assistance to this organisation. He wasn't just a journalist interviewing bin Laden, he was interviewing his boss. What you have to consider now is up to what point you're prepared to put a premium on freedom of expression and up to what point you'll put a premium on whether this person belongs to al-Qa'ida.

Alluni's defence maintains this is persecution.

JOSE LUIS GALAN MARTIN(Translation): Nobody can doubt at this point that irrespective of my client's personal relationships, had he been a Fox journalist or worked embedded with US troops instead of for the annoying and independent Al Jazeera, he wouldn't be here. I don't think anybody can have any doubts about that.

On the day of judgment, security outside the court is intense. Taysir Alluni's wife and children arrive feeling uncertain about the verdict.

FATIMA ALLUNI (Translation): At this moment my feelings are pessimistic, but I am hoping for him to be found innocent.

While his family and lawyer say the judicial process has been flawed, academic Juan Avilles Farre disagrees.

JUAN AVILLES FARRE (Translation): But I'm convinced that if the evidence isn't very strong there'll be no sentences. I have complete trust in the Spanish legal system. There won't be sentencing without strong evidence.

A huge international media contingent has gathered for the much-heralded Spanish al-Qa'ida trial. Rumours that Alluni is going to be found guilty are being reported even before the verdict comes.

CNN JOURNALIST: Again we're going to have to wait a few minutes. This would not be the first speculation. Spain's largest circulation newspaper on Sunday predicted that Taysir Alluni would be convicted.

Inside the court Alluni's verdict is finally read out.

WOMAN (Translation): We acquit him of the charge of belonging to a terrorist group. But we must and do find him guilty of collaboration with a terrorist organisation.

Alluni is sentenced to seven years in jail for the crime of collaboration. As he's is taken away under high security to begin his prison term, some observers worry what this verdict of collaboration means for journalists. Al Jazeera's news editor, Amhed Sheik, has flown in from Qatar to watch the trial.

AHMED SHEIK, CHIEF NEWS EDITOR AL JAZEERA: I believe that this trial is a precedent that is really very negative for all of us in the media field. It just makes our life much more difficult, So it's just if a journalist moves here and there and then he is accused of collaborating, it is a very dangerous, a very negative precedent.

Dateline has obtained a written copy of the court's judgment. It explains in detail their reasons for convicting him and clearly indicates that a journalist pursuing contacts for a story can be considered a collaborator.
The judgment says that while Alluni did not belong to al-Qa'ida, he did favours for certain members of the organisation, such as giving hospitality in order to gain journalistic information.

COURT JUDGMENT: "And Taysir helped them - not disinterestedly as any good Muslim would grant favours to their fellow Muslims - but to obtain from those individuals exclusive and enlightening information on al-Qa'ida and the Taliban regime."

This, in the eyes of the court, makes him guilty of collaboration.

COURT JUDGMENT: "And since true information - as with all truths - cannot be obtained without any price, Taysir Alluni, by trying to obtain it by helping individuals of the calibre of Mustapha and Mohammed, committed the crime of collaboration with a terrorist organisation for which he now has to answer."

Alluni's supporters reject this entirely. They also say the men he is accused of collaborating with are not even members of al-Qa'ida.
Outside the court, his family immediately announce they will appeal the decision.

FATIMA ALLUNI (Translation): We'll fight it to the end in every court in the world. We'll prove his innocence. This is unjust.

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