The organisation expressed solidarity with Alluni, describing his case as similar to that of Florence Aubenas, the abducted French journalist being held in Iraq.

In a seminar organised by the International Committee for the Defence of Alluni in Paris on 14 February, RWB's Secretary-General Robert Ménard criticised his organisation's misjudgment of Alluni's case.

"We first trusted the judge's reputation and the democracy of Spain, but we realised later that we had dropped basic principles that defendants are innocent until proven otherwise, that judges can be wrong and that extraordinary courts do not observe fair treatment," Ménard told the audience.

Seminar

A seminar on Euro-Arab media solidarity and freedom of expression was attended by about 78 journalists and lawyers from Arab and European countries - as well as some 17 non-governmental organisations for the defence of human rights and press freedoms.

 

Sit-ins are planned to protest the
against Alluni's detention

Conference delegates agreed to organise sit-ins at Spanish embassies in countries where friends and members of the International Committee for the Defence of Alluni reside.

On 11 March 2005, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, delegates will arrange to have condolences sent out to the victims' families.    

Demands

Meanwhile, Spanish Attorney-General Pedro Ribera has demanded harsh punishment for defendants convicted of having links with al-Qaida cells in Spain.

The attorney-general told the media that three suspects accused of being directly involved in planning the September 11 attacks should be sentenced to more than 62,000 years in jail, each, with financial compensation of nearly $380,000 to be paid to victims' relatives.

Alluni's trial is scheduled to begin 
one year after the Madrid bombs 

Eighteen detainees accused of links to al-Qaida in Spain - including Alluni, should be sentenced to between nine and 25 years in jail, he added.
 

A member of an international panel in defence of Alluni, Moroccan lawyer Khalid Sufyani, described the attorney general's comments as irrational.

 

Alluni was innocent and his detention was "repressive and illegal", he told Aljazeera on Tuesday.

 
Sufyani says continuing Alluni's detention is illogical and without legal grounds, citing lack of evidence in any trial.

  
Lack of evidence

 

Syrian-born Alluni - a Spanish citizen - was first arrested in 2003 on suspicion of links with al-Qaida as part of an investigation into suspected Islamist operations in Spain.

 

"We first trusted the judge's reputation and the democracy of Spain"

Robert Ménard,
secretary-general,
Reporters Without Borders

Released after two months for health reasons, he was re-arrested in December 2004. Alluni is suffering from several health problems, including heart ailments and a chronic back condition. The trials of all 18, including Alluni, are expected to begin next March, the first anniversary of the Madrid bombings.

 

As a correspondent for Aljazeera, he became well known for his work in Afghanistan during the US-led invasion.