Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Trial....Day 6, February 26th

Day 6 of the trial began with the resumption of the questioning of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio), who initially declared on day 1 of the trial but was subsequently offered the opportunity to listen to the main evidence against him before continuing; recordings made by the Italian police at his home in Milan where he allegedly claimed responsibility for planning the bombings. “That voice is not mine, it is not me talking” he declared, denying that he had ever made the claims recorded by the police.

He was also questioned about calls he made to a friend resident in Belgium, Mourad Chabarou, on the 24th May 2004. In this conversation El Egipcio is said to have made references to the “brothers” in Madrid who were now in heaven. In the courtroom he recognised that this was a reference to Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino) and the others who committed suicide in Leganés, claiming that he had only seen on this day that one of the dead in the explosion was El Tunecino. In his replies he also stated that another accused, Fouad el Morabit, was a normal person with no connections to extremism; but that he thought when he first saw the news about Leganés that El Morabit may have been with El Tunecino, as they were friends. El Egipcio said that he used the word “brother” to refer to anyone of Muslim faith, and that he was completely innocent. “I am a normal person and I have nothing to do with this terrorist act” he declared at the end.



Next to be questioned was Mohamed Bouharrat. Some passport size photographs of him were found in the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés, as well as fingerprints on a book found in the same place. On being detained he claimed that a Renault car that he used belonged to the fugitive Mohamed Afalah, but in the court he said it belonged to someone else. He accused the police of hitting and threatening him to get the initial declaration. He also initially declared to the police that he had been offered 5000 euros to transport explosives to Algeciras in the south of Spain. In court he stated that he had the opportunity to take drugs to Algeciras but that he did not do it.

On the photographs found in Leganés, he stated that these came from some clothes that he left in a bag inside a Renault car belonging to someone called “Abderraman”, and that the traces on the book were probably there because he touched this book inside the car. Bouharrat said that he was never inside the apartment in Leganés. He admitted to knowing the fugitives Mohamed Afalah and Said Berraj, arguing that they had been workmates of his. He denied ever having been involved in the identification of possible objectives for terrorist actions.

Following Bourrat to the stand was Mohamed Moussaten, a nephew of Youssef Belhadj. Both Mohamed and his brother Brahim Moussaten had declared to the police that their uncle had told them he belonged to Al-Qaeda. Now Mohamed denied that Belhadj had told him this, declaring that he had made this statement under police pressure. He also denied that he had watched videos of combat and executions together with his uncle, or that Belhadj had talked to him about holy war. He claimed that the police had obliged him to declare that his uncle was one of the three people appearing in the video claiming responsibility for the attacks. The chief judge ordered the reading of his police declaration to the court, and also the transcript of a face to face hearing with his uncle made before the investigating magistrate.

In response to further questions, Moussaten claimed that the majority of his friends were Spanish, and that at the time of the attacks he even had a Spanish girlfriend. On his religious beliefs, he said he knew enough to be able to pray. Most of the questions he faced concerned his uncle.

Brahim Moussaten supported the version offered by his brother when it came to his turn to testify, denying that his uncle was connected to radical Islamist groups. Brahim only accepted questions from his own defence lawyer. He said that the declaration he made to the police about the supposed relationship between his uncle and Al-Qaeda was made under threats, including some made by a Moroccan police officer.

Concerning the accusations of assisting the escape from Spain of Mohamed Afalah, he said he had no reason to suspect that Afalah had anything to do with the train bombings. He denied having ever been in the house at Morata de Tajuña or in the apartment in Leganés where 7 members of the group responsible for the bombings committed suicide. Brahim Moussaten stated he knew none of those who committed suicide and denied that he ever called Abdelmajid Bouchar, the accused alleged to have fled the apartment before the police siege and subsequent explosion.

Last to testify on day 6 was Mahmoud Slimane Aoun, accused by the prosecution of maintaining numerous telephone contacts with Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino) between the middle of January and the end of February 2004. On the day before El Chino is said to have gone to Asturias for the explosives, it is alleged there were five calls between the two men. Nevertheless, Slimane claimed that El Chino and he were enemies because the latter had insulted him for being a Shia muslim. He said he could not recall the telephone calls, and that from the times recorded many of them were made after midnight when he was asleep.

Telephone records also show more than 140 calls between Slimane and Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil between January 1st and March 26th 2004. Slimane claims that these contacts concerned vehicle repairs. He denied having been involved in falsifying documentation, saying that he barely knows how to write and has two mutiliated fingers on his right hand. His testimony continues on day 7.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:

El Mundo - Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed
El Mundo - Mohamed Bouharrat
El Mundo - Moussaten brothers
El Mundo - Mahmoud Slimane Aoun

Accused....Mahmoud Slimane Aoun

A Lebanese citizen, Slimane is accused of collaborating with a terrorist organisation, and of falsification of documentation. The sentence requested by the prosecution is 13 years imprisonment. He is accused of having made numerous calls to Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino) during January and February of 2004. These calls are alleged to reveal his presence near to the house in Morata de Tajuña where it is alleged the train bombs were prepared. They are also said to indicate that he was in Leganés on the 13th March and that he had a relationship to Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil. He was arrested in the Madrid district of Carabanchel and has been in prison since the end of July 2004.

Accused....Brahim Moussaten

A Moroccan citizen, and brother of co-accused Mohamed Moussaten, Brahim Moussaten is charged with collaborating with a terrorist organisation. The sentence requested by the prosecution is 8 years imprisonment. Detained in February 2005, he is accused along with his brother of actions which assisted the escape from Spain of Mohamed Afalah and Abdelmajid Bouchar. Moussaten is a nephew of Youssef Belhadj, who is accused of being one of the main organisers of the train bombings. He was released from prison on bail in July 2005.

Accused....Mohamed Moussaten

Of Moroccan nationality, Mohamed Moussaten is accused of collaboration with a terrorist organisation, and the sentence requested by the prosecution is 8 years imprisonment. He is linked by the prosecution with the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group. Together with his brother, Brahim Moussaten, he was arrested in February 2005 because of an alleged relationship with Mohamed Afalah and Abdelmajid Bouchar who both managed to escape from Spain after the bombings; although Bouchar was later captured. Moussaten is a nephew of Youssef Belhadj, accused of being an intellectual author of the bombings, and declared to the police that his uncle had told him he was a member of Al-Qaeda. He has been free on bail since July 2005.

Accused....Mohamed Bouharrat

Mohamed Bouharrat is a Moroccan citizen, and is charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation. The prosecution requests a sentence for him of 12 years imprisonment. The evidence against him is based on some photographs of him recovered from the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés where 7 members of the group who carried out the bombings blew themselves up. He was also identified from traces left on a book also recovered from the wreckage. He is linked by the police to the rental of this apartment and others that were possibly used by the perpetrators of the bombings. His alleged relationships with others of those accused led to him being imprisoned in May 2004.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Extraordinary Case Of The Indestructible ST Timer

One characteristic feature of conspiracy theories in general is their durability even in the face of clear evidence demonstrating the lack of substance behind them. For a very good example of this from the London bombings, take a look at this article from the Guardian . In reality, we don’t need the example of London to demonstrate the point; the conspiracy theories about the Madrid bombings show very well how an unfounded accusation can spread and become part of the debate about the bombings.

A few months ago, on my other blog, I wrote a post about an article that had been published in El Mundo. The article concerned the discovery of an “ST” timer during the search of a workshop being rented by one of those on trial for the bombings. This story originally attracted my attention because I noticed it on a blog being written in English by a supporter of the conspiracy theories. As presented on this other blog, the story was that the timer found had actually been made by ETA, and it was therefore a clear proof of ETA involvement in the Madrid bombings. On reading the original story from El Mundo, I found no facts demonstrating that ETA had made the timer, and I was struck by the fact that the device in question had what was clearly a model number - ST 17 MEC 24 H INT/160 . Now either ETA had their own timer factory with a significant range of products, and perhaps a catalogue or website advertising them, or we were dealing with a timer that had been industrially manufactured.

On questioning the post, the writer of the blog assured me that she knew the story was true because El Mundo’s director Pedro J Ramirez had stated it to be so on the radio program of his good friend Federico Jiménez Losantos. Call me a sceptic if you like, but this wasn’t really convincing enough and after a further exchange the blog’s author discovered a document from the Spanish Parliament where the Minister of the Interior had listed the industrially made ST timers as being one of several types used by ETA in the past. So the idea that the device was made by ETA was not supported by any evidence except the extremely unreliable word of Pedro J Ramirez.

The original newspaper article appears with a photograph of a timer recovered from an ETA commando in the past. The timer has a label on it with the words “Segurtasen Temporizadorea” in Basque. Ramirez argued, again without providing any evidence, that the ST timer was so called because it was the short version of the Basque description of the timer found. Now, put the words “ST” and “timer” into Google and see the long list of search results you get. Congratulations, you have just become an investigative reporter, perhaps not the very best in the world, but already a good bit better than anyone on the payroll of El Mundo.


The timer they didn't find.



You might think that would be the end of the matter, the story had been published and Ramirez had embellished it with the additional details needed to establish the connection to ETA. It should have been just another of the bogus connections that the conspiracy theorists have tried to create between ETA and the Madrid bombings. Over the next few months I got the occasional hit from someone who was obviously doing an Internet search on the model number of the timer, but apart from that the story barely surfaced; even on the web pages of conspiracy theory supporters.

However, I did not count on a defence lawyer for two of the accused in the trial adopting elements of the conspiracy theories as part of the defence being presented. It turns out that this lawyer, representing Jamal Zougam and Basel Ghalyoun, decided to include the photograph of the ETA timer in a written submission to the court. Along with the photograph is a text which links this timer to the one discovered by the police investigating the train bombings, alongside claims that only ETA would ever use such a timer. The newspaper El País picked up on this and ran a story on the inclusion by this lawyer of conspiracy theory material, and in the process demonstrated the clear industrial origin of the timer in question.

My original post on this issue was actually the first thing I wrote about the conspiracy theories; I never suspected at the time that 8 months later I would be returning to the same topic on a blog entirely dedicated to the subject of the Madrid bombings. The unpredictable consequences of blogging. What this story demonstrates is a sad reality that the conspiracy theorists are very much aware of; that an often repeated lie refuses to die. For them, anything that demonstrates even the most tenuous connection to ETA acquires an almost mystical significance that resists any effort to present the facts behind the issue. I'm not convinced that we have heard the last of the ST timer.


READ MORE IN SPANISH:

The Trial....Day 5, February 21st

Day 5 of the trial continued with declarations by those accused. Those who testified on this day are accused of more minor roles in the train bombings. First to the stand was Rachid Aglif, also known as “El Conejo” (The Rabbit). Aglif admitted to being a friend of Jamal Ahmidam (“El Chino”), who died in the explosion in Leganés, and is accused of having been a participant in the first meeting between El Chino and those accused of selling the explosive used in the bombings.

At first Aglif denied that he had engaged in drug trafficking, the activity which is said to have financed the purchase of the explosive. However, when the prosecution confronted him with his declaration to the police that he knew El Chino through drug trafficking, he admitted that he may have been involved in illegal activities, but denied that they involved drugs. He did admit to taking from El Chino a bag containing 500 ecstasy tablets, but said he took it from him as a friend and that someone else passed by later to collect it. He said that El Chino returned from a trip to Morocco in the summer of 2003 a much more serious and religious person.

Aglif denied knowing anything about the journeys El Chino is said to have made to the north of Spain in his attempts to procure explosives, and that he never accompanied him on these trips. He also denied talking to him in the early days of March 2004, although the prosecution claims that various calls between the two were registered on the 3rd March. He insisted that he never went to the house in Morata de Tajuña, near Chinchón, where the bombs were allegedly prepared.

He testified on a meeting about the explosives which he attended, and which was held in a McDonalds restaurant in Carabanchel, a district of Madrid. Also present at the meeting were the accused Emilio Suárez Trashorras, Carmen Toro, Rafá Zouhier and El Chino. Aglif claims he arrived later than the others and that he sat at a separate table. He admitted knowing the accused Rafá Zouhier since childhood, and Aglif has accused Zouhier of telling lies about him. He admitted knowing Jamal Zougam by sight, Mouhannad Almallah Dabas because he carried out repairs at the family’s butchers shop, but not to knowing Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino). He condemned the attacks and expressed a desire that the people responsible had been arrested before being able to carry them out.

El Conejo testifies

Following Aglif was Abdelilah el Fadual el Akil, who is alleged to have had a very close relationship with El Chino. He admitted to buying the Volkswagen Golf car which El Chino is said used to transfer the explosives from Asturias to Madrid. He also admitted having been in the house at Morata de Tajuña on several occasions, and to knowing several of the accused, although he denied having participated with El Chino in any criminal activities and said he did not even know that El Chino was a hashish trafficker. He attributed the many telephone calls between himself and El Chino in February and March 2004 to car repairs which he had carried out for the latter.

El Fadual said that he exchanged with El Chino the Volkswagen Golf for a BMW he had driven up from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, collecting the Golf from the house at Morata de Tajuña. The prosecution alleges that traces of explosive were detected in the boot of this car. He also declared that this day of the car exchange, March 1st 2004, was the last time he saw El Chino. He claimed to know nothing about the Asturians implicated in the sale of the explosives, or about El Tunecino. He claims that when he was arrested by the police they told him that if he admitted to selling drugs with El Chino they would let him go as they were looking for people connected to Al-Qaeda.

Next to the stand was Saed el Harrak, who admitted that he had been with one of the Leganés suicides, Abdennabi Kounjaa, all day on March 7th 2004. Both men had worked together in the village of Bargas, in the province of Toledo. El Harrak had denied knowing anyone involved in the bombings in his police declaration, he said that this was because his wife was pregnant and he was afraid of being imprisoned. He declared that Kounjaa used his telephone for several calls because he possessed no phone of his own.

El Harrak denied knowing another of the Leganés suicides, Mohamed Oulad Akcha, saying he only knew Akcha's brother Rachid; although the prosecution says that calls to and from Mohamed are registered for his phone. He also denied that Kounjaa had given him his will and farewell letter to his family, even though this was found in a bag that contained his work clothes. He claimed that Kounjaa could have left the document there without his knowledge, and that had he been aware it was there he would have burnt it. El Harrak said that he last saw Kounjaa on the night of the 10th March when the latter came to his house to return a toolbox. He only became aware of his friend's participation in the bombings when it emerged in the media. He also said that his friend never discussed with him his ideas or intentions. When asked about the bombings he stated that Spain was a country that "had opened the door to me, gave me work, here I have everything and I live better than in my own country".

The next of the accused to declare, Mohamed Larbi ben Sellam, is accused of being the messenger for Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio). He denied even knowing him, claiming that he only knew El Egipcio's brother and could not explain why this person would have his telephone number. He also denied any contact with the Oulad Akcha brothers or Abdennabi Kounjaa. Accused of having organized Islamist meetings in a Madrid mosque, he stated that he had only been there two or three times.

Larbi ben Sellam is also accused of having assisted two of the group responsible for the bombings to escape from Spain; Mohamed Afalah (believed to have died in a suicide bombing in Iraq), and Mohamed Belhadj. He denied this and any connection that it might have had with journeys he made to Tarragona and Barcelona. Additionally he denied having given the instructions for delivery of a mobile telephone to Afalah's family so that they could contact Mohamed. Finally, he rejected any connections to radical Islamist groups.

The last to testify on day 5 was the cousin of El Chino, Hamid Ahmidam. He refused to accept questions from anyone except his own defence lawyer and those of the other accused. Ahmidam is said to have worked at the house in Morata de Tajuña between the 10th and the 29th of February 2004. He said he never saw weapons in the house, but that one day when he was coming down the staircase he saw his cousin and some others attempting to hide a cylindrical object with cables. He declared that El Chino asked him not to come to the house in the first few days of March because a woman was going to come there with her children; and that one day when he went in the first week of March El Chino refused to let him enter.

In the days after the train bombings Ahmidam went back to the house and continued working there. He saw his cousin on two occasions, but none of the others who had been there in February. On one occasion, about 10 days after the bombings, he took El Chino to Leganés.

Despite the police discovering 19000 euros and quantities of drugs at his home, Ahmidam claimed he went back to work on the house because he needed the money. He denied any knowledge of the drugs found.


READ MORE IN SPANISH:
El Mundo - Rachid Aglif
El Mundo - Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil
El Mundo - Saed el Harrak
El Mundo - Mohamed Larbi ben Sellam
El Mundo - Hamid Ahmidan

Accused....Mohamed Larbi Ben Sellam

A Moroccan citizen accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation and with conspiracy to murder. The total sentence requested by the prosecution is 27 years imprisonment. He was arrested in Barcelona in May 2005, although it is said he was first put under police surveillance in 2002 because of his relationships with radical Islamists. He is said to have been a full member of Movimiento Salafista de la Yihad Combatiente, controlled by Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet (El Tunecino) and Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio). He is believed to have been a point of connection between these two.

Accused....Saed El Harrak

A Moroccan citizen charged with collaborating with a terrorist organisation, the prosecution asks for a sentence of 12 years. A workmate of Abdennabi Kounjaa, killed in the explosion of Leganés, he is said to have made telephone calls to Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino). A bag of his handed over by the company where he worked contained a manuscript appearing to be a will written by Kounjaa for his family.

Accused....Rachid Aglif

Aglif is of Moroccan nationality and is accused of trafficking with explosives and of collaborating with a terrorist organisation. The prosecution requests a sentence of 21 years for thes offences. Nicknamed El Conejo (The Rabbit) he admitted on being detained to have ties of friendship and business with Jamal Zougam and Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino). He is said to have been present at the wedding in February 2004 of Carmen Toro and José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, both accused of being involved in providing the explosives for the train bombings. He also attended the first meeting in November 2003 to agree the sale of the explosive, held in a branch of McDonalds in Madrid.

Accused....Abdelilah El Fadoual El Akil

A Moroccan citizen, he is charged with collaborating with a terrorist organisation, and faces a sentence requested by the prosecution of 12 years. He is alleged to have had a close relationship with Jamal Ahmidam, known as El Chino, and is accused of helping this person to leave Morocco in summer 2003 using false documentation. He is also said to have bought a car used to transport the explosive for the bombings from Asturias. In addition, he is alleged to know several of the others accused, and to have been in the house used to prepare the bombs. The testimony of another accused collaborator, Mahmoud Slimane Aoun, links him to hashish trafficking whose proceeds may have been used to help finance the bombings. He has been held in prison since April 7th 2004.

Accused....Hamid Ahmidam

A Moroccan citizen, he is charged with collaborating with a terrorist organisation and also with drug trafficking. The prosecution requests a sentence of 23 years imprisonment. In his home, a significant quantity of drugs was found by the police, hence the trafficking charge. He is a cousin of Jamal Ahmidam, known as El Chino, and traces of his DNA and also fingerprints were allegedly found in the house in Morata de Tajuña where the bombs were prepared. He is said to have carried out some work on this house. At his home falsified documentation was found, belonging to Otman el Gnaoui, but changed to take a photograph of El Chino. He has been held in prison since the 30th March 2004.

We Want To Know....Where The Documents Are

"Queremos saber" (we want to know) is the favourite cry of many of the conspiracy theorists as they seek to convince Spain that the government is hiding what really happened on March 11th 2004. Well strangely enough for people with such an apparent thirst for knowledge, their curiosity has strict limits.

The government, formed by the Partido Popular, that was in power at the time of the train attacks continued to function for another month after they lost the elections on March 14th 2004. So they were still in power when virtually all of the important arrests were made, they were also in charge at the time of the siege of the flat in Leganés that led to the suicide of those inside. You would think that those who presided over the government of the country during this tense and crucial time, as the perpetrators were hunted by the police, would have much to tell about the sequence of events. More importantly, the documentation of meetings which took place at the time would be invaluable as a record of what decisions were taken during these weeks.

When the new government took office on April 17th 2004 they found that there was no documentation concerning the train bombings in the government offices, the outgoing administration had either removed or destroyed the documentation that recorded their actions between the 11th March and the day they left office. Yet for some reason none of those involved in promoting the conspiracy theories ever ask what happened to such potentially valuable documents, they certainly do not campaign to be told about their fate. Potentially crucial first-hand evidence was removed or destroyed and those who have filled thousands of pages with allegations of concealment have nothing at all to say on the matter.

Why? ¡Quiero Saber!


READ MORE IN ENGLISH:

READ MORE IN SPANISH:

The Trial....Day 4, February 20th

Day 4 of the trial saw attention begin to focus on those accused of having lesser responsibilities for the train attacks, those who are more collaborators than active participants in the execution of the bombings. The first to declare was Mouhannad Almallah Dabas, who was the tenant of a workshop in the Madrid district of Concepción where several of those accused of the bombings are said to have stayed, including Basel Ghalyoun, Fouad el Morabit and Rifaat Anouar (killed in the Leganés explosion).

Almallah Dabas accepted questions from the prosecution. About the workshop he stated that it was not used for meetings, or for the display of films about “yihad”. He claims that if there was any radical Islamist material there, it was brought by one of the sub-tenants, Rifaat Anouar. He admitted to knowing Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino) since 1996 as well as the brothers Oulad Achka, also killed in Leganés.

He said that he visited the shop of Jamal Zougam once to buy a charger for his wife’s telephone. In addition he admitted knowing Abu Dahdah, who has been convicted of being the head of a Spanish cell of Al Qaeda, but that he only knew him because of visits to his home to repair household electrical goods. He claimed that this kind of work explains his possession of timing devices for refrigerators or washing machines.

On El Tunecino, Almallah Dabas said that he was a violent man who wanted to go to Iraq. He claimed that he rejected attempts by El Tunecino to convert him to radical Islamist ideas, and that this person also justified illegal acts in Spain such as bank robberies or killing of policemen; although he never talked about committing attacks similar to the train bombings. Almallah Dabas denied knowing Jamal Ahmidan (El Chino), another of the Leganés suicides.

Almallah Dabas in court


He admitted to sympathies with the Muslim Brotherhood , but claimed that this organisation does not permit the use of violence for religious or political reasons. He expressed the opinion in response to another question that “extremists are not good Muslims”. According to Almallah Dabas, his relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood is related to his joining the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) after the bombings in 2004 because the president of the Muslim Brotherhood in Madrid was encouraging members to do so.

Next to declare, Fouad el Morabit stands out a bit from many of the other accused, he speaks almost perfect Spanish and also claims to speak French, English and German. In his testimony he condemned absolutely the train attacks, claiming that if he was really a terrorist he would take advantage of the opportunity offered by the trial to claim responsibility for the bombings.

He admitted to knowing El Tunecino since the beginning of the year 2000, but claimed that they only met each other occasionally. Questioned by the prosecution, El Morabit denied that he knew anything about the planning of the attacks or that he was told anything by his flatmate (at the now famous property in the street of Virgen del Coro) Basel Ghalyoun. The prosecution read to him part of his declaration made to the police which contradicts these assertions; in that declaration he said that Ghalyoun told him that he had been warned by El Tunecino that something big was going to happen in Madrid and that they should leave the city. El Morabit claimed in reply that he did not take this as a serious warning. He also stated in reply to a separate question that this warning did not lead him to link El Tunecino to the train bombings. He stated that El Tunecino was radical and extremist, but not to the point of using violence.

On the day of the bombings, he said at first that he was woken by Ghalyoun between 10 and 11 a.m. This would put him in contradiction with the testimony of Ghalyoun who said that El Morabit had got up early at 7 a.m. to pray with him. Later in reply to his defence lawyer he rectified and stated that he had got up at 6:30 a.m. to pray with Ghalyoun and another tenant.He denied knowing the fugitives Said Berraj and Mohamed Afalah, and said that he could only be related to them via a telephone card that did not belong to him.

El Morabit also stated that he did not know Abdennabi Kounjaa, another of the Leganés suicides. He said that the only possible explanation for a telephone call made from his mobile telephone to Kounjaa was that it was made by Rifaat Anouar. Anouar slept at Virgen del Coro the night of the 11th March 2004, but El Morabit said that this was not the first time he had done so. Concerning Ghalyoun, he declared that he was more an acquaintance than a friend. Questioned about whether he knew Larbi ben Sellam, the alleged right hand man of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio), he said that he knew him only by sight. He admitted having known El Egipcio, and even became friendly with him; he stated that El Egipcio liked to fantasise.

Finally, he denied any affiliation to Islamic groups (moderate or extremist), or that the property where he lived was ever used for displaying videos related to Islamist causes. Additionally, he said he was against violence, and was if anything too peaceful.

Last to declare on this day was Otman el Ghanoui . Prosecution evidence links him to Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino), killed in Leganés, and also to the house near Chinchón where the bombs are said to have been prepared. The prosecution claims that holes excavated at this property were used for storing the explosive for the bombs, El Ghanoui recognised under questioning that he had helped to make one of these holes although he claimed it was for storing animal feed.

With one of the cars kept at the house, a Volkswagen Golf, El Ghanoui said that he drove to the village of Gogollos in Burgos where he had agreed to meet El Chino on the 17th February 2004. This is the day that the prosecution alleges that El Chino brought to Madrid the explosives that he is said to have purchased in Asturias. El Ghanoui admitted that he had agreed to this meeting, recorded in intercepted conversations related to a drug trafficking operation, but denied any knowledge about the explosives.

Another piece of evidence against him is that documentation in his name was discovered in an apartment occupied by another accused, Hamid Ahmidam, a cousin of El Chino. El Ghanoui declared that he did not know how this had happened and that the documentation must have been stolen. On the 10th March 2004 he reported in a police station the loss of his passport, driving licence, and receipt of his application for a residence permit.

In the house in Chinchón he coincided with other members of the group who committed suicide in Leganés, including Rifat Anouar and the brothers Oulad Akcha. His genetic profile was detected on clothes said to have been abandoned by Anouar in the train station of Vicálvaro on the line going to Atocha on the day of the bombings. El Ghanoui's defence to this is that he left clothes at the house in Chinchón where he was carrying out some work, and that these clothes could have been taken by Anouar. Finally he declared himself to be a Muslim, but not especially religious.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
El Mundo - Mouhannad Almallah Dabas
El Mundo - Fouad el Morabit
El Mundo - Otman el Ghanoui

Accused....Otman El Gnaoui

A Moroccan citizen, he is charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation, supplying explosives and falsification of official documents. The prosecution seeks a sentence of 24 years for these offences. He is alleged to have participated in the transfer of the explosives used in the train bombings from Asturias to the house near Chinchón that was used for preparing the attacks. His telephone conversations were being monitored in relation with an investigation into drug trafficking, and he was arrested on the 30th March 2004.

Accused....Fouad El Morabit Amghar

A Moroccan citizen, he is accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation and faces a possible sentence of 12 years imprisonment. He is an electrical engineer, and lived in the property located in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro which was rented by Mouhannad Almallah Dabas. He is accused of contacts with various of those implicated in the train bombings, both before and after the train bombings. He was arrested together with Basel Ghalyoun and the prosecution alleges both assisted Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed in recruitment for Islamist cells.

Accused....Mouhannad Almallah Dabas

A Syrian citizen, Almallah Dabas is charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation and the prosecution requests a sentence of 12 years. He is accused of participating in the recruitment of young people for radical Islamist activities, and with providing support to one of the group who committed suicide in Leganés. He rented a property in the street of Virgen del Coro in Madrid where several of the accused have stayed, including Asrih Rifaat Anouar, who died in Leganés. He is also accused of having maintained contacts with Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, and with Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino).

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Chess Players....Partido Popular

The main opposition party in Spain, the Partido Popular (PP) is at the centre of the controversy over the conspiracy theories, although the division of labour when it comes to spreading these theories sometimes gives the impression that their role is more marginal. Like El Mundo, they are very careful about making any specific allegations that can be tested and rebutted; but they have been instrumental in fanning the flames once the initial fire was lit. The pretence is one of maintaining “doubts” about the judicial investigation, although it goes without saying that such doubts are always favourable to the conspiracy theorist point of view.


The PP group in the Spanish parliament has tabled hundreds of questions on issues raised by the conspiracy theorists, and senior leaders have attempted to question the investigation of the bombings. This happens even though the PP were of course in power on March 11th 2004, and all the major developments in the investigation that took place in the following month happened whilst they were still acting as a transitional government. Many of the senior police officers involved in the investigation were PP appointees. Despite this, as soon as they passed to the opposition the party began to try and cast doubt on the events. Even the most tenuous suggestion of ETA involvement has been seized upon as vindication for their attempts in the immediate aftermath of the bombings to maintain ETA as the prime suspect, even as it became clear this was not the case.

Not all senior PP figures are very happy about this focus on the Madrid bombings, but the PP is not a party where freely expressed dissent is very welcome. Critical voices tend to be hushed as soon as possible. Also, some of the media supporting the conspiracy theories come down very heavily on anyone who steps out of line. However, the key problem is that the leadership of the party is composed of those who were responsible for the attempts to manipulate public opinion in the days between the bombings and the general election. They also have the support of José Maria Aznar whose departure was severely tarnished by the bombings and who has himself attempted to hint at a hidden hand behind the attack.

Even more shamefully, the regional government of Madrid, led by PP hardliner Esperanza Aguirre, has also thrown its weight behind this campaign. It’s more shameful because they so clearly put partisan and opportunist politics before even the minimum respect due to the many Madrid voters affected by the bombings. This policy extends as far as denying financial assistance to the largest association of victims of the train attacks because they refuse to back the conspiracy theories.

The Trial....Day 3, February 19th

The 3rd day began with the continuation of the declaration of Jamal Zougam. Although on day 2 Zougam had been prepared to accept questions from the prosecution, he changed his position over the weekend and made it clear he would now only take questions from his own defence lawyer. In his responses to these questions he condemned the train attacks, denied any connection with any of the places connected with the bombings, and also denied any involvement with terrorist organisations. Zougam suggested that his current position could be due to revenge on the part of the police, as he had refused on two separate occasions to become a police informer. When asked by the judge why he had not mentioned this before the trial, he said it was because he feared police reprisals. Zougam finished his testimony by stating "I still do not understand why I am in this trial".

Zougam testifies


After the declaration by Jamal Zougam came that of another defendant accused of being involved in the actual execution of the attacks, the Syrian citizen Basel Ghalyoun. Following the now familiar pattern, Ghalyoun denied any connection with the attacks but he did not refuse to accept questions from the prosecution. He denied knowing Jamal Zougam, although he did admit having visited the shop owned by Zougam in the Madrid district of Lavapies. He claimed that he had been there to buy an accessory for his mobile phone, even though he was living at the time quite far from Lavapies.

One of the main pieces of evidence against him is that traces of his DNA were found on a cap that was recovered from the apartment in Leganés where 7 members of the group committed suicide. Ghalyoun responded to questions on this by claiming that the cap could have been taken there by Rifaat Anouar, one of those who committed suicide and a friend of his. He was also questioned on his relationship with Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino), who he said he had last spoken to at the beginning of 2004. Having declared to the police that El Tunecino had justified attacks on targets in Spain because of Spanish intervention in Iraq, Ghalyoun rectified this in the courtroom by saying that this had just been a reference to robberies rather than terrorist actions.

He also acknowledged knowing 3 others of those standing trial, Fouad el Morabit, Larbi ben Sellam and Moutaz Almallah. Ghalyoun shares the same defence lawyer as Jamal Zougam, and was asked the same questions as Zougam about his membership of different terrorist organisations – he denied any relationship with any of them. He claimed that on the day of the bombings he awoke early to pray but then went back to bed until 10 a.m. On his identification by a witness from one of the trains where bombs exploded, he replied that this identification was based on photographs and not on an identification parade.

After the declaration by Ghalyoun came the turn of Abdelmajid Bouchar, who also accepted questions from the prosecution as well as his own defence lawyer. It is Bouchar who is alleged to have fled the Leganés apartment after realising that the police were present around the building. His passport and public transport travel card were found in the rubble of the apartment, but Bouchar argued that these documents had been lost or stolen at the end of March 2004. He claimed that on the day he was allegedly seen leaving the Leganés apartment, he was actually at his home in Fuenlabrada, also near to Madrid.

Questioned on why his genetic profile was identified on date stones found in the rubbish bag from the apartment, he chose not to answer. He also refused to answer a question on telephone contacts he maintained with Abdennabi Kounjaa, another of those who committed suicide in Leganés. He denied knowing any of the other members of the group who died in the explosion in that apartment. A further question he avoided concerned his identification by a witness leaving an Atocha bound train in the station of Entrevias. On the day of the bombings he said that he was at his home in Fuenlabrada.

Bouchar, like all others questioned, condemned the attacks. He was extradited from Serbia in 2005 and explained to the court that between leaving Spain and arriving in Belgrade he passed through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Hungary. He claims to have made this journey of over a year with just 1600 euros to live on, and that nobody helped him. He said that he left Spain because he had heard that the police were arresting “many Arabs” in the aftermath of the bombings.


Footnote:

Notice the many appearances in testimony of El Tunecino, killed in the explosion of Leganés, he seems to be emerging as the central figure. Of the 3 defendants who declared on day 3 it seems that Bouchar is in the weakest position because the weight of evidence against him appears more substantial. A question for conspiracy theorists; if the Leganés suicide was a police setup - as the conspiracy theorists would have us believe - why leave messy loose ends such as someone who is still alive, flees the building and denies being there?




READ MORE IN SPANISH:

El Mundo - Basel Ghalyoun
El Mundo - Abdelmajid Bouchar


Accused....Abdelmajid Bouchar

Bouchar is a Moroccan citizen and is charged with membership of a terrorist organisation, murder of 191 people, attempted murder of 1824, criminal damage and trafficking with explosives. The total sentence requested by the prosecution is 38654 years. He is another of those alleged to be material authors of the bombings.

He was present in the flat in Leganés on the 3rd April 2004 when the police surrounded the flat with the intention of arresting the occupants. Having left the flat to put out the rubbish, Bouchar became aware of the police presence and managed to advise the rest of the group and to escape. Eventually he was arrested in Belgrade in the summer of 2005 and extradited to Spain.

Accused....Basel Ghalyoun

A Syrian citizen, Basel Ghalyoun is charged with being a material author of the attacks and the prosecution asks for a total sentence of 38654 years for membership of a terrorist organisation, murder of 191 people, attempted murder of 1824, and criminal damage.

He is said to have maintained close contact with one of the group who blew themselves up in Leganés, Serhane Ben Abdelmajid (known as El Tunecino). It is also alleged that he was a friend of another of the accused, Fouad El Morabit Amghar, and of Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed. Ghalyoun was identified at one point by one of the people wounded on one of the trains, but a further identification process did not identify him.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Accused....Jamal Zougam

Jamal Zougam is a Moroccan citizen and is accused of being a material author of the train bombings. The prosecution seeks a total sentence for him of 38654 years, based on charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation, 191 charges of murder, 1824 charges of attempted murder, and criminal damage.

According to the judicial indictment, Zougam was seen by four witnesses on two of the trains involved in the attacks. He is also accused of having provided the cards of the mobile telephones that were used as the timers for the train bombs. Zougam has lived in Spain since 1985, and at the time of the bombings was running a "locutorio", a shop providing telephone call services.

Accused....Hassan El Haski

A Moroccan citizen and the third alleged "intellectual author" of the train bombings. El Haski faces charges of membership of a terrorist organisation, the murder of 191 people, the attampted murder of 1824, and criminal damage. The total sentence demanded by the prosecution is 38654 years.

Hassan El Haski is accused of being a leader of the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, an organisation also held to be responsible for bomb attacks in Casablanca in 2003. He is said by a witness to have left Spain a few days before the train bombings, although he later returned and was eventually arrested in Lanzarote in December 2004.

Accused....Yousef Belhadj

Of Moroccan nationality, Belhadj is accused of being one of the intellectual authors of the train bombings, along with Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed and Hassan El Haski. With charges of belonging to a terrorist group, the murder of 191 persons, and the attempted murder of 1824 - the total sentence requested by the prosecution is 38656 years.

Belhadj is believed by the Spanish police to be the spokesperson of Al-Qaeda in Europe, and the person who is believed to have made the claim for responsibility for the bombings in a video recovered from a waste paper bin near to the M-30 ring road in Madrid. His nephews Mohamed and Brahim Moussaten are also on trial facing lesser charges of collaboration with a terrorist organisation.

He was arrested on the 19th March 2004 in Belgium as part of a police operation against the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, and was extradited to Spain in April of 2005. The judicial investigation accuses him of being in possession of telephone numbers of members of the group responsible for the bombings, and claims that he was in Spain in February 2004, the month before the train attacks.

The Trial....Day 2, February 16th

Day 2 of the trial began with the appearance of the second alleged "intellectual author" of the train bombings, Youssef Belhadj. The pattern of his appearance followed that set on the first day of the trial by Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, Belhadj made it clear that he would not answer questions from anyone except his own defence lawyer. Just like Ahmed the day before he condemned the bombings and denied any association with those who carried them out.

In addition, he denied any links to Al-Qaeda and the Morrocan Islamic Combat Group (MICG), or that he was the person who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the bombings using the assumed name of Abu Dujana el Afgani. When questioned on declarations made by his nephew, Mohamed Moussaten, which have implicated Belhadj in recruitment for radical Islamist activities, he attributed his nephew's testimony to police pressure. To the question on whether he was a radical islamist came the reply "I am a normal Muslim".

Youssef Belhadj


Belhadj claimed he had been in Spain 3 times, in the years 200, 2002 and 2004; the first time to visit a sick relative and on the other 2 occasions to try and get residence in Spain. The prosecution believes that he was in Madrid in October 2003 to fix the date for the attacks, and that he returned in February 2004.

Next to declare after Belhadj was Hassan El Haski, arrested in Lanzarote in 2004 and accused of being a leader of the MICG. Again only answering questions from his own defence lawyer, El Haski denied any connection to the bombings or to anyone involved in them. Questioned about whether he condemned the attacks he replied "I cannot accept that they attack innocent people...children. This is a crime, who would accept it?".

El Haski was questioned about possible links to ETA and his reply was scornful; "How am I going to have a relationship with ETA if I cannot even read or write in Spanish?". He then made an ironic reference to the boric acid that was found in his home in Lanzarote, and which a police report later used to try and establish a connection with a case of the same substance being found in an ETA safe house. Not only did El Haski deny membership of the MICG, he claimed that such a group does not even exist.

Towards the end of the day there was time to begin the questioning of the first of the alleged material authors, Jamal Zougam. With this declaration we got a surprise, because Zougam was the first defendant who agreed to accept questions from lawyers for the prosecution. It seems that his decision caught the prosecution a bit by surprise, they were not completely prepared for someone willing to reply to questions.

Zougam, who is being accused of being one of those who actually placed the bombs, stated that at the time of the attacks he was asleep at home; he got up at around 10 a.m. and then went to work in his shop. He claimed no knowledge of the sale of the cards used in the telephone timers for the bombs and said that it was an employee of his who had stated that Jamal Ahmidan, the alleged buyer of the cards, was in the shop.

Apparently relaxed, and even smiling occasionally, Zougam denied knowing any of the other defendants. He also said that he had never been in the house near Chinchón where the bombs were allegedly prepared, or the flat in Leganés where several members of the group responsible were surrounded and blew themselves up. Pressed on the fact that he has been identified by witnesses as having been on the trains, he claimed that this identification was only made after his picture had appeared in the media. The day ended without finishing his declaration.

Footnote:
My prediction from the first day about the AVT lawyers only asking questions touching the conspiracy theories when they know there will be no answer was borne out - on day 2 they asked questions about connections to ETA , but not to the only defendant prepared to answer them, Jamal Zougam. One of the questions they raised concerns a ridiculous invention of the conspiracy theorists claiming that a timer made by ETA was found in a suspect's house - I have written about this story here.




READ MORE IN SPANISH:

El Mundo - Youssef Belhadj
El Mundo - Hassan El Haski
El Mundo - Jamal Zougam
El País - Belhadj and El Haski
El País - Jamal Zougam

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold

It is my belief, obviously unprovable, that had the Partido Popular won the general election on March 14th 2004, then virtually none of the conspiracy theories about the Madrid bombings would exist. There would probably have been one or two websites where theories would have been floated about involvement either by Mossad or other intelligence agencies in the bombings. There always are sites like this. What there would not have been is a sustained campaign led by important media organisations and the principal party of opposition to try and insinuate the involvement of the current government or other organisations in the bombings.

The PP was the favourite to win the elections in 2004, and there is little doubt that the bombings affected the outcome, although there can be argument over the extent of that effect. They got themselves into trouble in the days following the bombings with some crude attempts to exploit the bombings for their own political advantage. It was always clear that the thesis of ETA being responsible for the bombings would bring them more electoral advantage than that of Islamist responsibility, and their undoing was in their frantic attempts to keep this thesis alive until election day.


Is March 14th the day that bothers them most?


Meanwhile, had the PP won the election they would have been quite happy with the thesis that the bombings were the work of Islamist terrorists. They might have had to work a bit to deflect suggestions that the bombings had anything to do with Spanish intervention in Iraq, but apart from that the issue of the identity of the perpetrators would not have consumed much of their time. El Mundo and the other media groups involved now in promoting the conspiracy theories would have found other issues in an attempt to maintain or boost their sales, while Pedro J Ramirez would be enjoying his invitations to dine in the official residence in Moncloa of the Prime Minister and leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy.

What really convinces me of this is the evident political intention behind much of the campaign sponsoring these conspiracy theories. This is most evident on web sites and blogs where those involved in the campaign gather to express their opinions, but even in the press or statements by politicians the resentment felt by those who feel robbed of their rightful position does not take long to surface. That is why they talk about the elections following the bombings as being a golpe de estado (a coup d’etat), as if somehow the result was not a reflection of the popular vote. That is why they hint at secret agreements supposedly made by the current Spanish government with ETA, or of ETA blackmailing the government because of their hidden role in the bombings. The anti-government demonstrations where smartly dressed PP supporters wave their placards linking ETA and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the March 11th bombings are not the product of a genuine interest in knowing what really happened on that tragic day. Rather they represent a fervent desire for revenge against a government whose legitimacy the demonstrators are unable to accept. It’s a pity, a great pity, that in the process of seeking that revenge they felt the need to convert the awful events of March 11th 2004 into nothing more than their partisan political plaything.

The Trial....Day 1, February 15th

Anyone who had high hopes of dramatic revelations on the first day of the trial will have been disappointed. After some initial formalities, including the naming of the accused and the reading of the charges, the trial began with the appearance of Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, accused of being one of the main organisers of the bombings. Ahmed initially refused to answer any of the questions put to him stating that he did not recognise any accusation, and that he would answer no questions, not even from his own lawyer. He then attempted to make a statement, but the chief judge refused to let him proceed.

The chief prosecutor, Olga Sánchez, read out questions that she wanted Ahmed to answer, but no answers were provided. Other lawyers representing other parties to the accusation also were permitted to read their questions, but the response was the same. It was only later that Ahmed declared that he would be prepared to answer questions put to him by his own defence lawyer, but by nobody else.

El Egipcio, a man of few words....

The afternoon session was taken up by his responses to these questions. He denied any kind of participation in the planning or execution of the bombings, or any connection of any kind with those who carried out the bombings. The only contact that he admitted to with those suspected of implementing the bombings was with Serhane Ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino), one of those who died in the explosion in the flat in Leganés. However, Ahmed claimed that El Tunecino was just his Spanish teacher. In other answers he stated that he condemned the bombings, and that he had bever been involved in the distribution of books praising jihad.

In the end the evidence against him is almost entirely reliant on the conversations that were secretly recorded by the Italian police, although the Spanish police are reported to suspect that he was present at some point in the house near Chinchón where the explosives were prepared. In these recorded conversations Ahmed claimed that the bombings were his idea. There is no DNA evidence linking him to any of the sites connected with the preparation of the attacks.


A couple of footnotes from the first day:

The lawyer representing the Asociación de Victimas de Terrorismo (AVT) , an organisation which aligns itself with the conspiracy theorists, asked a question about links with other terrorist organisations. We shall see what happens with the AVT, but I predict that their lawyers will ask more questions of this kind when they know they will receive no answer; it is a way of raising issues for propaganda value, safe in the knowledge that nobody is going to answer them. A technique used recently in the trial of 3 ETA members.

The chief judge of the tribunal, Javier Gómez Bermúdez, is attracting a lot of attention for his very firm, but open, handling of the first day of the trial. He is not beyond controversy himself, his appointment to his current position had to be repeated 3 times because of challenges to the way it was done. He seems at the moment to be going out of his way to avoid any suggestion that the trial will not be fairly heard.


READ MORE IN ENGLISH:

The Guardian
The Times
CNN
The Washington Post


READ MORE IN SPANISH:

ABC
El Mundo
El País

Accused….Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed

Known as “El Egipcio” (the Egyptian), Ahmed is accused of being one of the intellectual authors of the Madrid bombings and is charged with murder of 191 persons, and attempted murder of 1824. The prosecution demands a total of 38656 years of imprisonment for him. A former Egyptian army officer, it has been suggested he is an expert in explosives although in his own declaration to the police he denies this. He was arrested in Italy after being secretly recorded by Italian police talking about his connections to the group that carried out the bombings. It is alleged that he was in Spain until a few days before the bombings

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Chess Players....El Mundo

El Mundo has been the newspaper that has done most to attempt to sow doubt about the events surrounding the bombings. Once the change of government from the Partido Popular (PP) to the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) took place in 2004, El Mundo began to publish articles which have attempted to cast doubt on the judicial investigation and the authorship of the attack. It is the second biggest selling newspaper in Spain after El País, and in the past had a reputation as being a progressive, even left of centre paper. It also had a reputation for investigative journalism, most notably in the case of the GAL, the government sponsored death squads that set about eliminating activists close to ETA in the 1980’s. Over the last few years however, the political orientation of the paper has clearly changed with a significant shift towards more right wing positions.

The motives of the newspaper in the case of the Madrid bombings are arguable. There are those who believe it is mainly commercial as El Mundo seeks to hold back the general decline in sales of printed newspapers by taking readers from its main rivals. Others see more personal or political motivations on the part of the paper’s powerful director, Pedro J Ramirez. It is quite possible that all of the above factors play some part in setting the policy of the paper.

Pedro J Ramirez and friend....


Meanwhile, supporters of El Mundo present the paper’s reporting on the Madrid attacks as simply being investigative journalism, without any other intention behind it. The problem with this is that so many of the articles published by the paper simply do not back this up. We get sensationalist headlines that make claims entirely unsupported by the articles. There is the constant emphasis on any detail, no matter how incidental, that points to ETA participation in the bombings. Where genuine specialists cannot be found to give testimony supporting the conspiracy theories, El Mundo has invented “experts”. Witness statements are edited to change the meaning of their testimony. The list is long of manipulative journalistic practices which have nothing to do with genuine independent investigative reporting.

In any case the supposed independence of Ramirez is more formal than anything else, as a couple of recent examples demonstrate. Last summer hundreds of members of the youth wing of the PP were taken to Mallorca from the Spanish mainland, to demonstrate in favour of the swimming pool at Ramirez’ house on the island, which illegally occupies a section of the supposedly public coastline. Now I suppose that the PP may be prepared to provide a similar free service to all of those who find themselves in this position, but somehow I suspect not. Ramirez also turned up not long ago at a congress of the PP in Navarra to denounce Zapatero’s government for negotiating with ETA and supporting the PP line that a secret agreement on the status of Navarra has been agreed as part of this negotiation.

The Trial….Setting The Scene

29 people are standing trial accused of participating in the Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and 1840 were wounded. Of these 29 accused, 18 are currently being held in preventative custody and are seated in a special bullet proof enclosure in the courtroom; the other 11 are free on bail. It is worth emphasising that not all of those held responsible for the bombings are present, 7 members of the group involved blew themselves up in a flat in Leganés when it was surrounded by police 3 weeks after the train bombings.

The trial began on Thursday 15th February 2007, and is taking place in a courtroom located in the Casa de Campo, on the outskirts of Madrid. The courtroom is being protected by 300 police and the level of alert for possible terrorist attacks has been raised. Hundreds of witnesses are due to be called and it is expected the trial will last for several months with a verdict expected at some point in the autumn.


READ MORE IN ENGLISH:

The New York Times


READ MORE IN SPANISH:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

El Mundo And Dinitrotoluene

The article in El Mundo today concerning the pre-trial analysis of the explosives is a perfect demonstration of the methods used by this newspaper in its attempts to try and cast doubt on the investigation of the bombings.

They have found a document which states that dinitrotoluene (DNT) is not a recognised component of the explosive allegedly used in the bombings - Goma-2 Eco. This is fine, it is a document based on analysis of explosives carried out by the Guardia Civil - but not of tests carried out on the samples recovered from the explosion sites in Madrid or Leganés. The latest tests for the trial have indeed found the presence of DNT in the samples of Goma-2 Eco that were recovered in the investigation, and they have also found this substance in the master samples provided for comparison purposes.

Despite this, El Mundo uses the presence of DNT and the fact that not all components of Goma-2 Eco were discovered in all the samples to try and suggest that this explosive may not have been used at all. Instead, and very predictably for anyone who has read their past coverage of the issue, they raise the possibility of Titadine, an explosive used in the past by ETA and therefore the firm favourite of our conspiracy theorists. Titadine does contain DNT, but unfortunately there is no other single fact that currently points to its use in the train bombings. Indeed, the tests have produced evidence of the presence of substances that are not present in Titadine (nitroglicol), but you will search in vain to find any reference to this in El Mundo's article.

Towards the end of the article they get round to mentioning that the master samples of Goma-2 Eco contain DNT (small traces), but only after making a determined attempt to cast doubt on the validity of an analysis carried out in absolutely transparent circumstances. So while the rest of the press reported today on the confirmation of this explosive as the one likely to have been used in the bombings, El Mundo chose a headline directly suggesting otherwise. It is a common feature of their articles on the bombings that they choose a sensationalist headline not borne out by evidence which they either omit completely or bury deep inside the article that follows.