Friday, March 30, 2007

The Trial....Day 21, March 28th

A dramatic day 21 in the trial, and one that has much relevance for the part of this blog that deals with conspiracy theories about the train bombings. The drama came towards the end of the day, first came the testimony of another police inspector who was amongst those involved in the investigation of the bombings. This officer, an inspector of the Central Unit for External Information (UCIE in Spanish) named Jesús Parrilla, was identified by police number 23599.

The witness stated that he did not believe the statements made after the bombings by Emilio Suárez Trashorras about contacts between Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino) and the ETA members detained in Cuenca province in late February 2004. Parrilla was part of the team that interviewed Trashorras in Avilés a few days after the train bombings, and said that during the conversations prior to the detention of Trashorras the accused never mentioned the subject of explosives or ETA. Parrilla also affirmed that he is unaware of any contacts between Islamist terrorists and members of ETA.

The witness declared that on arrival in Asturias, the team of investigators first went to meet the management of the mining company Caolines de Merillés, owners of the Conchita mine where the explosives used in the bombs are said to have been stolen together with detonators. He said that the company presented itself as being a model one in terms of security, and that the directors denied any possibility of explosives being removed from their mines. Parrilla said they also provided a list of former employees of the mine, and that this list included the name of Trashorras.

The witness said that whilst they were in Asturias, evidence from the investigation of the telephone cards began to emerge, but this was not the original reason for their journey to the region. Parrilla declared that the investigating team was presented to Trashorras by his police contact from Avilés, Manolón, who testified earlier this week. He said that Manolón told them about Trashorras suspecting the involvement of some North Africans that he had been in contact with for hashish deals. Parrilla said that during their conversations with Trashorras on the 17th March 2004 his then wife, Carmen Toro, also entered the room where they were talking. The witness said that Toro sat on her husband's knee and said to him "Darling, say what you have to say, but leave me out of it" . He said that after this Trashorras began to understand that he could be in a difficult position, and that his attitude changed.

The witness said that Trashorras told the police of an occasion when he had taken El Chino and others to the mine. He also mentioned Rafá Zouhier and described him as a point of contact with the North Africans. Parrilla said Trahorras also mentioned the injuries that Zouhier is said to have caused to himself when experimenting with a detonator. Parrilla declared that he prepared a report on the 19th March 2004 containing details of the interviews in Avilés, but that a few days later those preparing the accusation said they did not have this document, so Parrilla said he gave a verbal summary of its contents and later prepared another version.

Following the evidence of Parrilla came the appearance of a witness who worked in the Carrefour supermarket in Avilés, where it is alleged the rucksacks were purchased that were used to remove the stolen dynamite from the mine. She testified that a group of "arabs" bought rucksacks and torches in the store. Later she identified Jamal Ahmidam and Abdennabi Kounjaa from photographs.

In the afternoon session came the appearance of the director general of the police at the time of the bombings, Agustín Díaz de Mera. This witness was questioned by the prosecution on the sequence of events between the 11th and the 13th March 2004. He said that he was in Barajas airport in Madrid when he was informed of the attack. He immediately went to Atocha station and spoke to the Minister of the Interior, Angel Acebes. That morning there was a meeting at the ministry attended by the senior officers of the national police and a senior representative of the Guardia Civil. He said that this meeting discussed the likelihood of ETA being responsible for the bombings, including the absence of a warning; something that was commonly given in ETA attacks. During this same meeting the witness said that another senior officer, Pedro Díaz Pintado, received a telephone call telling him that the bombs had contained Titadine dynamite. However, this information was subsequently corrected at around 18:00 p.m. on that day and that from that point they were sure that dynamite had been used, but without being able to say which particular kind. It was him who was responsible for informing the minister of these developments.

The witness declared concerning the discovery of the Kangoo van in Alcalá de Henares containing detonators, and a small amount of Goma 2 Eco dynamite. He said that the direction of the investigation was always in the hands of those leading it. He was informed about the discovery of the unexploded bomb in Vallecas police station in the early hours of the the 12th March, and that a few hours later he received the confirmation that the bomb contained Goma 2 Eco. Díaz de Mera also described a conversation with another senior officer on the 13th March concerning some imminent arrests, and a meeting on the same day concerning the discovery in a waste paper bin of a video tape claiming responsibility for the bombings. He said that he opposed a proposal in the meeting that Acebes should appear on television reading this claim of responsibility. This witness denied that the government and police were not alert to the threat of Islamist terrorism before the bombings. He said that he was never informed about the existence of a document detailing threats from Al Qaeda against Spain.

Following the questioning of this witness by lawyers from the prosecution we come to the most dramatic moment of the day. The witness was questioned by a lawyer from one of the victims associations that are sympathetic to the conspiracy theories. The questions concerned an interview that Díaz de Mera had given on a radio station where he claimed that a report existed linking ETA to the Madrid bombings. The lawyer attempted to question the witness on the contents of this report, but Díaz de Mera replied that he did not know details of the contents, nor did he know the names of the authors; only that he had been told by his source that it was a man and a woman. Asked who had given the order to conceal the report, he stated that he had never claimed such an order had been given.

When asked by the same lawyer who his source was for the information about this report, Díaz de Mera refused to give the name. The chief judge, Gómez Bermudez, offered him the possibility of writing the name on a piece of paper instead of declaring it in open court, but the witness still refused to do this saying that it could put his source in jeopardy. The judge replied that the court undertook responsibility for protecting witnesses and reminded the witness that the law required him to identify the source on which his testimony is based. He advised Díaz de Mera that he could face charges for a crime of disobedience, and ordered a recess of 5 minutes to allow the witness to consider his position. At the restart of the session, Díaz de Mera still refused to name his source, Gómez Bermudez reminded him again of the possible consequences of his refusal and fined him 1000 euros (see footnote).

The final witness to appear on this day was an officer of the Guardia Civil, identified as witness X-33167-T. This witness was ordered to prepare a report in April 2004 on the declarations made by Emilio Suárez Trashorras about the theft of the explosives in Asturias. He declared that he travelled to the region and interviewed employees of the mine and members of the local Guardia Civil. He reached the conclusion that both the explosives and the detonators came from the Conchita mine. He also visited the manufacturer of the dynamite and made tests on the quantity of explosive which could fit into bags similar to those used by the accused.

The court will not reconvene for further sessions until the 9th April.

The refusal of Díaz de Mera to name his source has put the spotlight on the conspiracy theorists. He made his original allegation on the radio programme of Federico Jiménez Losantos, and as with all the best conspiracy theorist allegations he gave no detail which can possibly be tested or disproven. It is surprising the judge did not also warn him about the consequences of committing perjury, but in any case he is potential trouble. Díaz de Mera is not a professional policeman, he was a political protege of Ángel Acebes and is now a member of the European Parliament for the Partido Popular. He could now face trial and a potential prison sentence for refusing to reveal the source, although first his parliamentary immunity must be lifted. Ironic that this situation should have arisen from the questioning by those who attempt to introduce the conspiracy theories into the trial, they have ended up placing one of their "assets" in big trouble. The first witness today, Jesús Parilla, is also involved in some legal difficulties connected to the conspiracy theories. He has been charged in connection with revealing details of a police investigation in progress to the newspaper El Mundo; the investigation had to be rapidly terminated as a result of the newspaper publishing details of it. Another murky case connected to the campaign of the conspiracy theorists.

International Herald Tribune - Ex-official fined for silence on claim of Basque link to Madrid bombs
EITB - Police chief refuses to unveil who said ETA was linked to bombing

ABC - Police witness Parilla
ABC - Díaz de Mera
ABC - Díaz de Mera and the ETA report
Datadiar - Summary of the day

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