Al Jazeera Too Close to Terror?

For Syrian-born journalist Tayssir Alouni, the biggest story of his life may turn out to be his own indictment.

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon alleges Alouni, a correspondent with the Arab satellite channel al Jazeera, is a member of an al Qaeda terror cell who helped plan the Sept. 11 attacks on America. But with her husband in a Spanish jail cell, Alouni's wife is proclaiming his innocence.

Alouni, 48, was a high-profile correspondent for al Jazeera who had met with Osama bin Laden and was often the reporter who received al Qaeda tapes and messages from unknown sources.

But now Alouni, who was arrested on Sept. 5 in Granada, Spain, is being held at the Soto Del Real prison outside Madrid.

In a court hearing Wednesday, Alouni denied all relations with al Qaeda. He denied recruiting militants, transporting money, or cooperating with the organization in any way. The judge will make a decision regarding Alouni's request for probational release sometime in the next week.

In Madrid, Alouni's wife, Fatima Zohra Hamed Layesi, told ABCNEWS Tuesday her husband is innocent. "My husband is a good person," she said in Spanish. "He is a journalist, not a member of al Qaeda."

"The judge says that he thinks he has proof enough to say this man is a member of al Qaeda and that we must be clear that this person was using his job as a journalist as a perfect cover to be a member of al Qaeda, to be a courier and probably a recruiter, God knows what else," Gustavo Arestegui, the chairman of the Spanish Parliament's Intelligence Committee, told ABCNEWS.

Last week, five men suspected of being members of a Spanish al Qaeda cell were arrested on the orders of Garzon. Garzon alleges that all five made contact with Alouni.

Spokespeople for the Qatar-based network say Alouni is an honest journalist. His outraged colleagues now wear "Free Tayssir" buttons on the air and the network is running a video montage of Alouni with prison bars superimposed over his image.

But others say Alouni's alleged involvement with al Qaeda raises new questions about al Jazeera.

"To what extent did one of its reporters cross the line from being a supporter of Islamist policies to being a member of an underground al Qaeda cell?" said Fawaz Gerges, an ABCNEWS consultant and professor of International Affairs and Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College. "What does the case say about al Jazeera? To what extent should al Jazeera pay more attention to the background of its reporters?"

Indictment Details Interactions with Al Qaeda

According to the 710-page indictment written in Spanish, Alouni was under surveillance for five years, before he went to work for al Jazeera. The indictment does not make any charges against al Jazeera.

The indictment details his travels and wiretapped phone conversations in which Alouni allegedly agrees to carry money and messages to al Qaeda operatives planning the Sept. 11 attacks. It also charges that Alouni later used his job at al Jazeera while based in Afghanistan to make it easier for him to pass money to al Qaeda members.

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