IFJ Raises Concern Over Health of Accused Television Reporter Held in Spanish Jail

The International Federation of Journalists is asking its member organisations in Spain to investigate the prison conditions of Al-Jazeera television reporter Tayseer Allouni who has been held in solitary confinement since his detention two months ago following his rearrest on terrorism charges.

His wife has complained that his health is deteriorating as a result of prison conditions where he is, allegedly, held in isolation for 20 hours a day. He is permitted four hours outside his cell, she says, but he is not allowed to talk to anyone.

Allouni, Syrian by birth but holding a Spanish passport, was first arrested in 2003 on suspicion of links with al-Qaeda as part of an investigation into Islamic militant operations in Spain. As a correspondent for Al-Jazeera, he became well known for his work in Afghanistan during the US-led war there.

But two months after being taken into custody he was released on bail with judges ruling his poor heart condition meant that despite the seriousness of the allegations, he should be freed pending a trial.

The indictment against him said he used his role as reporter to take cash and messages between Al-Qaeda members. But Allouni says the evidence leans heavily on badly translated, misunderstood telephone conversations. He was taken back into custody in November 2004.

“This case has caused anxiety to journalists, not least because after months on bail with no apparent problems, he was taken back into custody,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Now we have reports that he is in deteriorating health. It is important that he is treated in a humane and compassionate manner.”

His lawyers are asking the Spanish authorities for him to have a full medical examination by heart and back specialists, but they say there has been no response.

The IFJ has asked its three member organisations in Spain to raise the case and concerns about his health condition with the Spanish police and prison authorities.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries