TV channel Al-Jazeera condemned Spanish court's sentence

The pan-Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera condemned Monday a Spanish court's finding that one of its journalists had collaborated with terrorism, accusing the judges of violating legal principles.

"It was a black day in the history of the Spanish justice," Al-Jazeera news editor Ahmed al-Sheik told the channel from Madrid minutes after the court sentenced Tayseer Alouni to seven years' imprisonment for "collaboration with a terrorist organization."

Alouni became famous in the Arab world as Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul during the U.S.-backed offensive against the Taliban government in 2001. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, he interviewed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, according to the AP.

A Syrian with dual Spanish citizenship, Alouni was one of 24 defendants who stood trial in Madrid's National Court on charges related to the Sept. 11 attacks and membership of the al-Qaida terror network.

He had pleaded innocent, denying that he ever belonged to al-Qaida.

"If these charges had been brought in an English court, the judge would have surely thrown them in the dustbin," al-Sheik said.

The news editor said Alouni's wife and a representative of the Arab Human Rights Organization had already told the judge they planned to appeal.

"The court violated a legal principle in interpreting the principle of doubt not as in favor of the defendant but against him," the news editor added.

Soon after the sentences were delivered, Al-Jazeera began broadcasting interviews with Arab lawyers who expressed views sympathetic to Alouni. The television channel's scroll bar repeatedly ran Alouni's conviction and seven-year sentence.

The London-based Algerian lawyer Saad Djebbar told the channel the verdict was "sad" and alleged the court had accepted security service reports as unchallenged evidence.

Former Qatari Justice Minister Najeeb al-Nuaimi told Al-Jazeera the verdict was "politically motivated."

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