Monday, March 19, 2007

The Trial....Day 16, March 19th

Day 16 began with further testimony on the unexploded bomb that was discovered in a police station in Vallecas in the early hours of the 12th March 2004. The first witness to appear was a member of the Tedax, the Spanish bomb disposal squad. This witness, with police number 64501, was the Tedax officer who deactivated the “Vallecas” bomb. He was questioned on why this device did not explode on the train, and responded that the cable connections had not been taped and that they could touch as the bag was moved, provoking a short circuit. He expressed the opinion that the person responsible for the connection of the cables was perhaps not the same as the one who set up the mobile telephone to be used as a timer, as the latter task showed evident signs of expertise.

The witness said that the bomb was of simple, but clever, construction. He also said that it was different from the kinds of bomb the Tedax were used to dealing with, mostly devices prepared by ETA. What surprised him initially was that the telephone was turned off and the wires were not taped. Also, he could not see any reason why the charger for the telephone was also inside the bag containing the bomb.

He said that when he was phoned in the early hours of the morning and told that a suspicious bag had been found, he was told by the police that the bag had come from the station of El Pozo. Later when he inspected the bag he knew it contained a bomb because the telephone with cables exiting matched the other device which had been found and destroyed at the same station on the day of the 11th. The agent felt the bag and could tell that it contained a “gelatinous” substance. He inserted his finger and smelt it; the smell was of bitter almonds, something which explosives experts identify with dynamite.

The witness decided, together with another Tedax officer, to take the device to the nearby Azorín park, the intention being to avoid the evacuation of apartment blocks near to the police station. Once in the park they x-rayed the device, although the witness said that these x-rays only showed the silhouette of the telephone and a mass of cables. It was not even possible to follow the route of the individual cables.

The next witness to testify was another Tedax agent, identified by police number 65255. This officer was responsible for the controlled explosion of a different unexploded device that was recovered from the train at the station of El Pozo. He said that the Tedax arrived at this station around 9:00 a.m. on the day of the bombings, and that inside the station they found municipal and national police, fireman, and health workers. They began to check the train, although there were already bags outside of the carriages. One particular bag attracted the attention of this witness because of comments by a municipal policeman who took it off the train. Opening the bag, the witness saw a mobile telephone connected to cables entering a blue rubbish bag. Asked about whether the connections were taped, he said they were not, and for this reason he believed the bomb had not exploded. When asked if he saw other suspicious bags on checking the carriages of the train, he said that he did. Until these bags were checked the train was evacuated of rescue workers. None of these suspicious bags turned out to be a bomb, he said the train was checked 3 or 4 times.

In the afternoon session came the testimony of the municipal policeman who removed from the train the unexploded bomb discovered at El Pozo station. This witness said that he discovered the bag containing the bomb in the third carriage of the train, but as the priority at the time was to get the wounded off the train he simply removed the bag and left it in what he thought would be a safe place in case it exploded. His initial intention was to leave it on the tracks, but in the end he left it by a waste paper bin on the platform.

This witness declared that he arrived together with 5 companions at the station with orders to rescue the victims. He saw the bag in one of the carriages where no explosions had occurred; it caught his attention because there were no other bags left in this carriage. He said that it was a black rucksack, weighing about 10 kilos, and had been left underneath one of the seats. On checking inside the bag he saw the mobile telephone and the cables connecting it to a plastic recipient. He advised one of the national police of what he had found and the latter raised the alarm by radio.

Another witness on this day was Luis Garrudo, the caretaker of a block of apartments close to the railway station in Alcalá de Henares. It was this witness who alerted the police to the presence of the Kangoo van parked close to the station. Garrudo saw 3 men leaving this van on the morning of March 11th 2004 as he went down to the railway station to collect some free newspapers. The men attracted his attention because they seemed to be overdressed given the fine weather that morning. He said that the first man he saw was carrying a bag in one hand, and a rucksack in the other. He declared that he did not see the men enter the station itself, although all 3 were heading in that direction. He had no doubt that they were foreigners. When he returned to the property where he worked, the van was still there but the men he had seen were not. When he heard later the news about the bombings he decided to inform the police about what he had seen.

Later appeared two witnesses from a construction site who saw a man removing clothing close to the railway station of Vicálvaro, on the route taken by the trains carrying the bombs. The man attracted their attention because he was wearing more clothes underneath the ones he removed. One of these witnesses has identified the man he saw as being physically similar to Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Rifaat Anouar or Mohamed Bouharrat.

Also appearing on a busy day for witnesses was another dog handler of those who inspected the Kangoo van, following on from the first who gave testimony last week. This witness was questioned on whether he considered it normal for the dog to detect the presence of explosives in a van that may have been used to transport 50 or 60 kilos. He said that the dog should detect something because there are always some traces of the odour. The dogs which inspected the inside of the van did not detect the remains of a stick of dynamite that was wrapped in a bag together with some detonators underneath one of the seats. The full internal inspection of the van did not take place until it had been transported to the headquarters of the scientific police in the district of Canillas. Questioned on whether the dog would detect the small amount of explosive in the bag with the detonators, the witness replied that this could be difficult to detect.

Another witness, identified by police number 75039, was responsible for sealing the van in preparation for it to be removed from Alcalá. Because the vehicle was in gear, he had to enter the van from the rear to free it for removal. He testified that nothing that was in the back part of the van caught his attention, nor was there any object too big to impede free movement inside. He entered this way to open the front door on the driver’s side so that he could then come in from there to change the gear. At this point he sealed the vehicle ready for its removal.

Further excitement here for the conspiracy theorists as they attempt to prove that the Vallecas bomb was planted. The absence of evidence of it's presence at El Pozo has always been used by them to try and insinuate that it was not on the train - in reality all that has been demonstrated is that it was not found at El Pozo. They also get excited at the failure of the dogs to detect explosives in the Kangoo van, even though the only explosive recovered from this van was a small piece in a plastic bag underneath one of the seats. Meanwhile, the evidence that the bomb was entirely different from those traditionally prepared by ETA has of course been almost completely ignored by those who find such facts uncomfortable. On days like this it is more difficult for me to give a straightforward account of evidence, I rely heavily on press accounts and these tend to be much less impartial when dealing with the controversial issues affected by the conspiracy theories. I do what I can to sift through the mixture of reporting and what is often no more than comment.


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