MADRID, Spain (AP) – Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, a stocky, middle-aged used-car salesman, was living in Madrid with his Spanish wife and four children when he was arrested two years ago and accused of directing an al-Qaida cell in Spain.

He’s still in prison, and now his legal troubles have deepened: a new indictment from Judge Baltasar Garzon accuses the Syrian-born Spaniard of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks.

Garzon’s indictment names Yarkas and 34 others including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Five other suspects were arrested yesterday on the judge’s orders. Although they were not among the 35 named in the indictment, four were linked to people named in it.

“What they’re accusing him of makes no sense. The evidence is so flimsy,” said Yarkas’ wife, Maria Luisa Martin, speaking from her Madrid home, where she looks after the couple’s children, who now number five, with another baby on the way. Soto del Real prison, where her 40-year-old husband is being held, allows conjugal visits.

Garzon said he issued the indictment Wednesday because al-Qaida used Spain as a base to plot the Sept. 11 attacks. Many named in the indictment, like Yarkas, are already in Spanish jails.

The indictment details taped telephone conversations that Yarkas had shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks with a man known only as Shakur, who is also named in the indictment. Yarkas met him as a casual acquaintance in the United Arab Emirates in the mid-1990s, Martin said.

In one conversation, on Aug. 27, 2001, Shakur said that, among other things, “they had entered the area of aviation and had even slashed the throat of the bird,” the indictment said. Yarkas and Shakur laughed during the exchange, the indictment said.

The document also noted Yarkas’ phone number was found in an address book at a Hamburg, Germany, apartment shared by accused Sept. 11 plotters who included Mohamed Atta, one of the suicide pilots.

Martin insists Yarkas, whom she last visited two weeks ago, is innocent.

“My husband does not know Mohamed Atta. He doesn’t know that group. We didn’t know about al-Qaida until Sept. 11,” she said.

Yarkas’ lawyer, Jacobo Teijelo, said the taped conversations show his client knew nothing of a terrorist plot, adding that the phone number found in Hamburg was from a previous home and eight years out of date.

“In this country, it is a crime to be a radical Muslim. My client is innocent of the attacks in New York. He didn’t incite anyone to make these attacks,” Teijelo said.

Yarkas is also accused of hiring men to fight in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia, and of raising money to pay them.

Garzon’s indictment says Yarkas took over this position in 1995 from a man known as Sheik Saleh – the alleged leader of several al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan.

Teijelo argued such actions are not terrorism.

“There were wars going on in those countries, not terrorism, so no one there was funding terrorism,” the lawyer said.

Until his arrest, Yarkas and his wife lived in an apartment in Madrid. Yarkas supplemented his income from selling used cars imported from Germany by occasional sales of Persian rugs, clothes, wood and honey, Martin said.

The couple met in a Madrid cafe in the mid-1980s, a month after Yarkas arrived in Spain.

Martin, an actress who had roles in several films of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, was not a Muslim.

“People assume that my husband would have forced me to convert, but he didn’t. I’ve only worn a veil for five years.”








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