Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Trial....Day 14, March 13th

Day 14 commenced with the declaration of another protected witness, identified only as J-35. This person is a former workmate of one of the accused, Mohamed Larbi ben Sellam. The witness stated that Ben Sellam received visits from several people including Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Abdennabi Kounjaa and Allekema Lamari from the group that killed themselves in Leganés; and also from the fugitive Said Berraj. The witness said he thought that Ben Sellam acted as a leader, especially during Ramadam. After the train attacks, Ben Sellam did not come back to his job at the market where they had both worked, although the witness said he did visit on one occasion to see a family member. The police were already looking for him at this stage and had shown his photograph around the market. The witness advised the security forces about this visit.

The next protected witness to appear was identified only as witness J-11. This witness also worked in the same market as Ben Sellam, and stated that the latter was very religious, even to the point of prolonging Ramadam. He saw Ben Sellam in the market two days after the bombings. However, he did not recall some declarations he had made to the police about statements made by Ben Sellam concerning the Americans and suicide attacks in Palestine.

The third witness to appear, also protected and identified as N-33, worked in a vehicle repairs workshop and carried out repairs on several cars belonging to Jamal Ahmidam, El Chino. The cars were brought to the workshop by someone who the witness has identified as being the accused Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil. The witness said that on two occasions he was accompanied by El Chino, but the latter stayed outside. On another occasion he declared that El Akil was accompanied by someone who has been identified as the accused Mahmoud Slimane Aoun. The witness said that Slimane returned to the workshop shortly after the attacks, and that he told Slimane that his friends were “sons of whores”. He declared that Slimane was very serious and replied that he had been tricked by them.

The next witness to declare was Ibrahim Afalah, the brother of Mohamed Afalah who is believed by the police to have participated in the bombings and who fled immediately afterwards. He is now believed to have died in a suicide attack in Iraq. His brother declared that Afalah fled on the night of the 3rd April 2004, the day of the suicide in Leganés. He said that on the same night he met the only person from the Leganés apartment to escape, Adelmajid Bouchar. Ibrahim Afalah knew Bouchar by sight because he had seen him with his brother. He said that Bouchar told him about his escape from Leganés when he noticed the police as he was taking rubbish out from the apartment. Bouchar’s defence lawyer challenged the witness on whether Bouchar had really told him about his escape from Leganés, Afalah could not offer an explanation for why Bouchar would reveal such details to him. Other defence lawyers asked if he had been pressured by the police to make certain statements, and the witness denied any such pressure.

The 3rd of April 2004 was the day on which Ibrahim Afalah got married. He testified that he was at the home of his parents in law when his brother Mohamed arrived there and asked him for his car. Ibrahim said he saw nothing unusual in the request, it was not the first time it had happened and that his brother did not tell him where he was going; only that he was leaving with Mohamed Belhadj. The witness said that his brother also asked him to go to the house of another man called Ibrahim to get the telephone numbers of Mimoun and Yousef Belhadj, both resident in Belgium. He said that the calls he received from his brother the following day were already made from outside of Spain. About the supposed death of his brother in Iraq, he declared that the family has had no confirmation of this, although his father received a call from Mohamed in May 2004 in which the son asked for forgiveness. This call was followed by one a few days later by one from an unknown man telling the father that his son had died.

The next witness was another whose identity is protected, and was identified as witness A-27. This witness had declared to the police that he saw Jamal Zougam on the train which later exploded in the station of El Pozo. The witness confirmed this declaration in the court, although he changed his account on which part of the train he was seated. The witness testified that on the 11th March 2004 he caught the train leaving Alcalá de Henares at 7 a.m., his destination was the station at Vicálvaro where he worked. In his testimony to the court he said that he sat on the upper deck of a carriage in the centre of the train. The bombs on this train exploded in the fourth and fifth carriages (the train had six in total). In his original declaration to the police the witness said that he travelled on the lower deck of the carriage, and the defence lawyer for Jamal Zougam pressed him on this point. The witness attributed this to a mistaken recollection. He said that before getting off the train in Vicálvaro he noticed a passenger seated nearby with a blue sports bag and who looked to be of North African or gypsy descent. He said that this passenger was having problems putting the bag beneath his seat. By the time the train reached the station of San Fernando he stated that the passenger was no longer there, but the bag remained. He could not say in which station the passenger had left the train. This witness declared that he contacted the police before having seen any photographs of Jamal Zougam in media reports on the bombings.

The following witness was identified only as B-78. The testimony of this witness has attracted attention because she retracted the declaration made to the police in the aftermath of the bombings. In this declaration, the witness said that she had seen Basel Ghalyoun on the train that eventually exploded near to Atocha station by the Calle Tellez. The witness was wounded as a result of the explosion and a friend travelling with her was killed. In court she declared that it was not Ghalyoun who she saw placing a bag beneath a seat. Instead, she said she was now sure that it had been Daoud Ouhnane, who fled after the bombings and has still not been captured. She declared that she realised this after seeing his face in a book she bought about the bombings.

The witness said that she caught the train together with her friend at 7:10 a.m. in Alcalá de Henares. Both women were going to work and their final destination was the station of Nuevos Ministerios in the centre of Madrid. They saw a man in the same carriage who attracted their attention because he seemed to be overdressed with a cap and a scarf. She said that he was carrying a dark bag. This man went briefly to the following carriage, but returned and sat close to the women, leaving the bag under his seat. They noticed when he had gone that the bag was still there, the witness said she even mentioned to her friend that it could be a bomb. Shortly afterwards a bomb exploded in the carriage in front of the one they were travelling in, they ran in the opposite direction to the explosion and at that moment the bomb in their carriage also exploded. The witness made her initial identification of Ghalyoun while she was still in hospital, and confirmed it later with a video shown to her by the police. Shown a photograph of Ghalyoun in the courtroom she confirmed that she was now sure this was not the person she saw on the train.

Next to declare was another protected witness identified only as witness C-65. This witness travelled in the train which exploded whilst in the station of Santa Eugenia. She was travelling in the last carriage of the train, and somewhere in between the stations of San Fernando and Coslada she was hit on the right shoulder by a rucksack being carried by a man next to her. She looked at the man who moved on through to the carriage in front of hers. She declared that she was completely sure this man was Jamal Zougam. Shortly afterwards a bomb exploded in the carriage where the man she saw had gone. The witness was questioned by the defence for Zougam about whether she had seen Zougam’s face in the media in the days following the bombings, but she stated that in the aftermath of the attacks she was unable to watch television or read about what had happened. At one point she started crying under questioning and the judge warned Zougam’s lawyer to be more careful in his manner of questioning the witness. The testimony of C-65 has been backed by another passenger who travelled with her on that day. Both witnesses have declared in court that the man they saw carried a blue bag.

A third witness has also claimed to have identified Jamal Zougam on one of the trains, this time on the train that exploded by the Calle Téllez. This witness had originally identified the person she saw on the train as Abdelmajid Bouchar, but in court she declared that the person she saw was Jamal Zougam. She declared that it was Zougam who got off the train beside her at the station of Entrevias and asked her if the next station was Atocha. The witness claimed that she had originally wrongly identified the man as being Bouchar because she was nervous after the attacks.

The last witness to appear was Manuel Rodríguez Simons, the head of security for Renfe, the national train company. He stated that it was possible for those placing the bombs to have changed trains, meaning that the same person could possibly have placed bombs on different trains. The difference in departure times from Alcalá de Henares of the four trains carrying bombs was just 13 minutes between the earliest and the latest. This witness was also asked about images collected by security cameras in the affected stations, and testified that only those installed in Atocha recorded the images they collected. The cameras in other stations were there only to assist the driver and station staff in checking the platform at the moment of arriving or leaving the station. He testified that the images recorded in Atocha were handed to the police. The witness declared that prior to the bombings they had not taken into account this kind of attack. They worked on security around the kind of attacks committed by ETA, who normally advised when they had placed bombs. He said that in 100 ETA actions in Renfe installations, there were only two cases where prior warning had not been given.

With the changes in testimony it is difficult to see the court placing too much weight on the witness identifications on the trains. Even if they are correct, the differences with initial declarations to the police inevitably cast doubt on them. Jamal Zougam has now been identified as being on three different trains, which may be possible but leaves unknown details on how the bombs were transported if they were not all unloaded at Alcalá. Basel Ghalyoun has avoided positive identification as a result of a witness changing evidence, this is not the only evidence against him but there is a big difference between being accused of collaborating and being accused of actually placing the bombs on the trains.

El Mundo - first 3 witnesses
El Mundo - Ibrahim Afalah
El Mundo - A-27
El Mundo - B-78
El Mundo - Zougam witnesses
El Mundo - Renfe security chief

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jamal Zougam.....Scapegoat in a Plot ?