Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Trial....Day 20, March 27th

The Asturian Connection

Day 20 of the trial began with the continuing declaration of the former head of the police drug squad in Avilés, Manuel García Rodríguez; known as Manolón. Today Manolón told the court that he saw Emilio Suárez Trashorras in the company of two North Africans in December 2003. He said that Trashorras did not tell him anything about this, and denied knowing any details about those accused of having purchased the explosives for the bombs from Trashorras. He admitted that Trashorras had offered him the possibility of detaining those who were involved in drug trafficking in Asturias, but said that he was not given the exact day on which they would come. He stated that the police paid relatively little attention to trafficking with hashish.

The next witness was an officer from the police Central Unit for Interior Information (UCII in Spanish) who testified that Trashorras gave them information on the 17th March 2004 about the possible involvement of North Africans in the bombings. This witness, a specialist in ETA, spoke at length with Trashorras and told the court that the latter never made any reference to a connection between Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino) and ETA. Nor did Trashorras make any reference to El Chino knowing the members of ETA arrested in Cuenca at the end of February 2004.

The witness said that he never received any instructions to direct the investigation towards ETA. Questioned on possible relationships between ETA and Islamists, he said that organisations like ETA did not tend to cooperate with other groups, although some personal contacts may occur between individual members os such groups. The defence lawyer for Jamal Zougam and Basel Ghalyoun asked the witness if ETA had participated in the attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993. At this point the chief judge intervened to point out that this event was not being tried here. The same lawyer then asked if ETA were involved in supplying forged passports in connection with this attack, the witness replied that he had no information at all about the World Trade Centre bombing.

The witness declared that he arrived in Avilés on the 16th March following the lead of the detonators discovered in Madrid. The witness said that on arrival in Asturias, the police first went to the mine from where the explosives were stolen. He declared that the company running the mine told them that they were a model company in terms of security and that the miners working there were local and trustworthy. The reason for the visit the following day to Avilés was because the mobile telephone antenna in Morata de Tajuña, which registered the activation of cards used in the bombs, had also registered calls to this town in February 2004. The following day he said that he met Manolón in the Guardia Civil barracks, and that the latter told him and his companions about what Trashorras had said about the possible involvement of North Africans. They decided to talk to Trashorras as a result of this information. He said they had a long, informal conversation in Avilés on the 17th March 2004, the following day the decision was taken to arrest Trashorras for his connection to the train bombings. This witness declared that Trashorras talked to them about someone he called "Mowgli", which is how Trashorras referred to El Chino; and also about Rafa (Rafá Zouhier). Trashorras also mentioned the property in Morata de Tajuña rented by El Chino. At no point did Trashorras explicitly mention explosives during the conversation.

The following witness is the only person so far to have been convicted for an offence in connection with the train bombings, Gabriel Montoya; also known as "El Gitanillo". Montoya has been convicted of transporting a bag containing explosives to Madrid, and talked in his declaration of having accompanied Trashorras and El Chino to the Conchita mine on several occasions. He testified on a visit made on the 26th February 2004, and another that they made on the 28th in the company of some Moroccans, including El Chino. Montoya said that on this latter visit Trashorras and El Chino were insiide the mine for 45 minutes, and when they returned he heard Trashorras say to El Chino that he should not "forget the bolts and screws". Back in Avilés, the witness said that the Moroccans bought some rucksacks before they all went back to the mine. Montoya said that the Moroccans returned 90 minutes later with the rucksacks full. Again they went to Avilés where the contents of the rucksacks were unloaded in a garage belonging to Trashorras. A further visit was made to the mine, following the same procedure with the rucksacks. Under questioning from the prosecution, Montoya said that Trashorras had told him the Moroccans wanted the explosives to rob jewelry stores. Following the bombings he said that Trashorras made a remark to him about what "Mowgli" had done.

Montoya made his first journey carrying explosives to Madrid at the end of January 2004, using a commercial bus to get there. He gave the bag he was carrying to a man he has identified as being El Chino. He declared that he was paid 1000 euros by Trashorras for making the journey. He claimed that at this point he did not know what he was carrying, but that the next day he was told by another of the accused, Iván Granados. He made a further journey on the 4th March 2004.

Finally came testimony from two employees of the Conchita mine, from where the explosives were stolen. Ramiro and Gonzalo López declared that the first thing they did on arrival at the mine was to change clothes in the gatehouse at the entrance. Then they would collect the keys to the stores for the explosives and each would collect the amount of explosive that they believed they would need for their work that day. The keys would be left at the store for the next person. Ramiro declared that they would usually take a bit more explosive than they expected to use, perhaps 2 or 3 kilos excess. They would then inform the mine security guard, Emilio Llano, who would be supposed to record these details. Gonzalo López testified that it would be possible to remove dynamite from the mine as the excess explosive and detonators was left where they had been working. He declared that security was tightened after the train bombings and that the same lack of control was not present in other mines owned by the company.

El Mundo - Manolón
El Mundo - UCII police witness
El Mundo - UCII police witness
El Mundo - El Gitanillo
ABC - Mine employees

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