Bid to have husbands released from prison

Since their husbands were arrested as al-Qaida suspects almost a year ago, Habiba Mohamed lost her job and suffered a miscarriage, Carmen Fernandez underwent psychological counseling and Asma Zafra lives on charity because her bank savings are blocked. The wives of men alleged to be linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and outside Washington insist their husbands had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network. “Our men are innocent. They are not terrorists,” Zafra, a 30-year-old Spanish convert to Islam, said in an interview yesterday. “They have been one year in prison without any evidence and we are suffering the consequences.” Mohamed, Fernandez and Zafra are married to Mohamed Zaher Asade, Mohamed Najib Chaib, and Osama Darra three of the eight suspects detained last Nov. 13 on suspicion of links to al-Qaida. Detainees are being held on suspicion of forming part of a Madrid-based cell allegedly led by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, whom investigators describe as al-Qaida's leader in Spain. National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon has said the suspects “were directly linked to the preparation and carrying out” of the Sept. 11 attacks in which about 3'000 people died. Garzon ordered them held in provisional custody while he carries out his investigation. No trial date has been set. The three women, along with the wives of two other suspects, Mohamed Needl Acaid and Jasem Mabhoule, have begun a campaign to show their husbands are innocent craftsmen who led normal, quiet family lives. The women said they have written letters to lawmakers and even King Juan Carlos, and will solicit funds at mosques around Spain. A public rally is planned for Sunday to collect signatures for a petition to be delivered to Garzon on Monday. While they spoke with a reporter at their lawyer's office in downtown Madrid, nine of their young children excitedly watched a Harry Potter video. None of the women has a high school degree. All except Fernandez are housewives. Fernandez worked in her husband's clothing store and is the only one who doesn't wear a veil. “When police told me that that my husband was a member of al-Qaida, I thought it was part of a movie plot. “I thought it was a tall tale,” Asma said softly, her head covered in a white headscarf.

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