Thursday, February 22, 2007

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.

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

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