Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Trial....Day 15, March 14th

The 15th day was one of these days that creates a certain expectation because of those who have been called to give evidence. The day began with a long session involving the former head of the bomb disposal squad, known in Spanish as the Tedax. The testimony of this witness, Juan Jesús Sánchez Manzano, occupied the entire morning. The witness was asked about the possible use of Titadine dynamite in the bombs, and he testified that at no point did he hear from any of his units a mention of this explosive in the hours following the attacks. He stated that the first solid indication they had on the use of the dynamite Goma 2 Eco was the discovery of the Kangoo van parked near to the railway station in Alcalá de Henares. Inside this van the police discovered a small quantity of this explosive, which matched a sample of the same explosive that the police held for comparative purposes. Also, in the afternoon of March 11th two employees of the company manufacturing Goma 2 Eco (Unión Española de Explosivos) confirmed that the explosive and 7 detonators found in the van had been manufactured by their company.

Sánchez Manzano declared that the Interior Ministry was informed promptly about all advances made in the investigation, and he denied having received any political pressures. Questioned about the unexploded devices which were discovered in the stations of Atocha and El Pozo, he said that the handling of these devices was the exclusive responsibility of the Tedax officer in charge at each site. Both devices were destroyed in controlled explosions. On the Kangoo van, he stated that it was brought to police installations at Canillas at about 15:00 p.m. on March 11th. He was informed by the scientific police about the discovery made inside this van of the detonators and the small piece of dynamite. The items discovered were then transferred to the Tedax laboratories where the comparison was made with the sample of Goma 2 Eco stored for this purpose. Sánchez Manzano denied any suggestion that the Kangoo van had been manipulated or that anyone had added items to it. When the visitors from the Unión Española de Explosivos confirmed the origin of the dynamite, he said that they also raised an important detail by identifying the detonators as a type only distributed in regions of the north of Spain. The witness declared that it was not until the 15th March 2004 that the Tedax were able to determine that the explosive used in the bombs had come from the Conchita mine in Asturias.

Sánchez Manzano gives evidence

Questioned about the unexploded bomb that was discovered amongst belongings from the station of El Pozo that were being held in a police station in Vallecas, Sánchez Manzano replied that he could not comment on what happened to this bomb during the day of March 11th. He was advised about the existence of the bomb at 2:30 a.m. and it was deactivated by the Tedax at 5:30 a.m. He denied any possibility of contamination that has been detected in tests on the explosives having occurred whilst under custody of the Tedax. He said that the samples were kept in adequate conditions under lock and key. On a statement he made to the parliamentary commission of investigation about the presence of nitroglycerine (not a component of Goma 2 Eco) at the sites of the bombings, he said that this was an error he made because nytroglycerine has always been associated with dynamite. Sánchez Manzano made it clear that he is not an expert in explosives, nor does he have qualifications in chemical analysis.

Following the declaration of Sánchez Manzano came that of the chief inspector of the Tedax for Madrid. This officer had direct responsibility for the actions taken relating to explosives on all the affected trains. He declared that he gave instructions for all the trains to be searched twice from head to tail in an attempt to find any further devices. He could not offer an explanation for the failure of the Tedax to detect the unexploded bomb from El Pozo that was later found in Vallecas. He said that the train was checked and that if no bomb was found it was because someone had removed it before his team arrived. He explained that the Tedax arrived later than other police branches at the station of El Pozo, and their mission was to examine all carriages for unexploded devices. They did find a device in the second or third carriage and this was subjected to a controlled explosion.

During the night following the bombings, the witness was called to the police station in Vallecas where the other unexploded device had been discovered amongst personal effects from the train at El Pozo. He said that when he arrived at 2:30 a.m. the bomb disposal team had already taken the device to the nearby Azorín park. The bag containing the bomb had been x-rayed, and the witness said that when he looked at this x-ray it was clear that the telephone used as a timer was not connected to the detonator.

This witness seconded the testimony of Sánchez Manzano by saying that the use of explosives such as Titadine or Goma 2 EC (predecessor of Goma 2 Eco) was rejected almost from the beginning because of the nature of the damage done by the explosives. He said this was because these explosives degrade with the passage of time and did not have the force of detonation to cause the effects of the bombs on the trains. He stated that Goma 2 Eco does have this potential because the components it contains preserve better this explosive capacity, although he acknowledged that at the time he and the officers under his command had little experience in the effects of using this dynamite.

The witness was in charge of all bomb disposal activities carried out in Atocha station. He said that at the beginning they suspected the use of a military explosive, but that following the controlled explosion of an unexploded device, they ruled out this kind of explosive because the smoke from the explosion did not match the black colour they would expect such an explosive. He said that when he arrived at Atocha, at about 8:20 a.m., the situation was chaotic and the first order he gave was for all the trains in the station to be checked for further devices. He gave the same instructions to the teams working in the other explosion sites at Calle Téllez, El Pozo and Santa Eugenia. The unexploded device found at Atocha could not be deactivated safely, and for this reason they decided to use a controlled explosion. Later they heard of the discovery of another device at El Pozo and this device was also destroyed after attempts to deactivate it were unsuccessful.

This Tedax officer was also present in Leganés on the day that 7 of the group implicated in the bombings committed suicide, the 3rd April 2004. According to his declaration they found two bodies in the swimming pool of the affected block with rudimentary explosive belts attached. This suggested to the police that the first of those inside the apartment who detonated his explosives killed the rest of his companions.

Finally on this day came the declaration of another protected witness, number 74021, who is a police dog handler who carried out an inspection of the Renault Kangoo van found in Alcalá de Henares. This witness confirmed to the court that his dog did not detect explosives during the external inspection of the vehicle. The witness testified that the ability of the dog to detect explosives depended on factors such as the quantity of explosive, and its packaging. The dog handler inspected the interior of the vehicle from the front and testified that he could identify no large articles inside.

The conspiracy theorists are quite excited about the testimony on Day 15, although they really have little grounds for feeling too satisfied. Much of the questioning was carried out by lawyers acting for the victims associations that support the conspiracy thories. Not for the first time these lawyers had to be reminded by the chief judge that their role is to support their submitted accusation which permits them to form part of the trial. The reason for their excitement is that they seek to deny the authenticity of the unexploded bomb found in Vallecas, and also have tried to suggest that the Kangoo van was stuffed with evidence by the conspirators. So the failure to find the Vallecas bomb on the train means to them that it must have been planted. Likewise, they have made great play in the past over Sánchez Manzano's reference to nitroglycerine, this despite the fact that it has not been found anywhere connected to the bombings. The one thing they do not highlight in their coverage of the day is an uncomfortable piece of evidence for them; the use of any explosive other than Goma 2 Eco was already more or less ruled out on the day of the bombings, all the talk of Titadine has been just that.

El Mundo - Sánchez Manzano
ABC - Sánchez Manzano
El Mundo - Tedax chief inspector Madrid
El Mundo - Dog handler Alcalá
Juan Carlos Escudier - Very good piece on the lawyers supporting the conspiracy theories

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