Thursday, February 22, 2007

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.

El Mundo - Mouhannad Almallah Dabas
El Mundo - Fouad el Morabit
El Mundo - Otman el Ghanoui

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