Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Trial....Day 13, March 12th

Day 13 of the trial got off to a slightly chaotic start. The first witness who was due to appear, Mouad Benkhalafa, did not turn up. Next the judge called a protected witness identified as Y-26, but this witness does not speak Spanish well and one of the court interpreters was also absent. In the end, the first witness to testify was Hassan Aglif, whose brother Rachid Aglif is one of the accused. Questioned on Rachid’s connections to Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino), Rachid is accused of being his right hand man, Hassan Aglif responded that this was impossible. He said that he did not know everyone that his brother mixed with, not even Rafá Zouhier who had been friends with Rachid since childhood.

When questioned about meetings allegedly organised by Ahmidam and Serhane ben Abdelmajid (El Tunecino) by the river Alberche, Aglif declared that he thought these meetings were just to celebrate a barbecue by the river. He did acknowledge knowing El Chino, who he said was a regular client of the family butchers shop. He said that he did not think El Chino was a very religious person. The last time he saw him was at the end of January 2004 when he sold him some lambs; El Chino had told him that he would leave them in the house at Morata de Tajuña where the bombs were said to have been prepared.

Next to declare was the witness Y-26 who is the former brother in law of Mouhanned Almallah Dabas. He testified in Spanish, despite having evident problems with the language. The witness testified on meetings which were held at the property in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro, home of Almallah Dabas and where others of the accused also lived. The meetings at Virgen del Coro were led by El Tunecino. He said the meetings included videos of training camps in Afghanistan, as well as discussion of radical Islamist ideas. He also declared that Almallah Dabas once told him that he would not be happy until the Torres Kio (landmark office buildings in Madrid) were brought down. He said that his brother in law always talked of jihad and made references to Afghanistan and Iraq. Until the 11th March 2004, the two men had a close working relationship, the witness assisted Almallah Dabas with repairs to household equipment. The witness stated that he stopped seeing Almallah Dabas after the bombings because of the way the latter treated his wife, sister of the witness. When asked if he considered his former brother in law to be a radical, he said that he did not; he had been influenced by his friends.

Following witness Y-26 came his sister, the former wife of Mouhannad Almallah Dabas. The witness declared that she had received threats and feared for her life. She confirmed the evidence given by her brother by stating that Almallah Dabas had told her one day that an attack should be carried out against the Torres Kio. The chief judge had not permitted her to hear the evidence given by her brother. This witness had married Almallah Dabas in an invalid ceremony, because the latter used an assumed name. Despite this, they lived as if they were married, and the witness said that Almallah Dabas wanted to have many children so that they could participate in the “jihad”. She also said that she saw radical Islamist videos being shown at the meetings held at Virgen del Coro, and that her “husband” also had videos of Abu Qutada, a cleric linked to Al Qaeda. In the same residence she declared that she once saw a box of books, some of them by Bin Laden, and others about “jihad”. She said that when she talked about this on the telephone to Moutaz Almallah Dabas, brother of Mouhanned, he put the phone down and later told her in person never to discuss such things by telephone because the police could be listening.

This witness also linked Almallah Dabas with El Tunecino, and stated that the couple had lived briefly at El Tunecino’s home before going to live at Virgen del Coro. She said that El Tunecino was a violent person who wanted to go to Iraq. She also said that she had seen her husband with El Chino, and with Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed. She denied ever having seen another of the accused, Basel Ghalyoun, in the property at Virgen del Coro.

The final witness to declare on this day was Mouad Benkhalafa, who had not been present when called earlier in the day. Benkhalafa was at one point arrested in connection with the train bombings, but the investigating magistrate decided not to accuse him of participation. As a witness, he was questioned on his work relationship to Basel Ghalyoun, and on the meetings alleged to have been held by the river Alberche. On the latter, the witness admitted having attended one meeting where there was talk of raising funds for Afghanistan, those attending included Mouhanned Almallah Dabas, his brother Moutaz, El Tunecino, Abu Dahdah (said to be leader of Al Qaeda in Spain), Amer Azizi and Ghalyoun. However, the witness maintained that Ghalyoun was not a radical, although he had some “radical thoughts” and believed that the true Muslims were in Bosnia and Afghanistan. The witness said that he did not notice any particular change in Ghalyoun after the train bombings, and that Ghalyoun told him he supposed ETA to be behind the attacks. He also said that he had watched a video on the suffering of Muslims in the world at the home of El Tunecino, Ghalyoun was present too; and that El Tunecino lent him a book about Shia Muslims and an interview with Bin Laden.

El Mundo - Hassan Aglif
El Mundo - witness Y-26
El Mundo - ex-wife Almallah Dabas
El Mundo - Mouad Benkhalafa

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