Monday, March 05, 2007

The Trial....Day 9, March 1st

Day nine of the trial was the last day of the opening phase, ending the initial declarations of those accused and beginning the second phase of appearances by witnesses. The accused who testified on this day were all related to the group from Asturias who the prosecution alleges to be the providers of the stolen explosive used in the train bombings.

First to appear was Raúl González who worked in the Conchita mine from where it is said the explosive was stolen. González has testified on how easy it was to remove dynamite from the mine. It was not stored in specially protected places, but simply left in the open air in the areas where it was needed. Detonators were stored in locked deposits, but the key was left by the miners under a stone. González testified that anyone could enter the mine and that he never saw a member of the Guardia Civil at the mine. He worked at the mine until December 2003 and is accused of having passed explosives to Emilio Suárez Trashorras in exchange for drugs. González denied this, saying that he bought drugs every week from Trashorras and never exchanged anything else in return for these drugs.

According to González there was no external control of the explosives, or any special security, even at weekends. Boxes of dynamite containing 25 kilos each of explosive were left open, and detonators that had not been used were left in the mine rather than returned to the deposit. He made it clear that anyone with some knowledge of the mine could enter and remove explosives and detonators, and that control was tightened only after the train bombings occurred. The interrogation of the accused was accompanied by audiovisual evidence showing pictures and film of explosives and detonators at the mine. Of the other accused he admitted to knowing only Trashorras and Emilio Llano, who also worked at the mine.

It was Llano, responsible for control of the explosives at the mine, who was the next to testify. Under questioning he defended his work at the mine, although he admitted that he trusted the word of the miners concerning the amount of explosives they had used, and did not check whether these explosives were entirely used or not. He claimed that this was the way things had always been done at the mine, he maintained written records of the explosives required by the miners, and the book where the record was maintained was shown to the Guardia Civil once a month. On general security at the mine he said there were no daily checks of everything, and that the Guardia Civil made checks two or three times a month.

After Llano came Iván Granados, whose testimony has been unusual for the trial so far in that he did directly incriminate someone else. Granados testified that on the night of the 23rd January 2004, he was asked by Emilio Suárez Trashorras if he would be prepared to transport a bag of explosives. He claims that he refused to do this, and that since then he had no further contact with Trashorras. Granados has also declared that Gabriel Montoya, the minor already convicted of transporting explosives for the bombs, told him that we was going to transport a rucksack of dynamite to Madrid, and that he had accompanied a group of North Africans to the mine. Granados claimed that he had never transported explosives himself.

Granados points the finger

The next accused to appear was Sergio Álvarez who testified that he got to know Trashorras via another friend and co-accused, Iván Reis. He said that he was asked by Trashorras to transport a heavy, locked sports bag to Madrid; he claims that Trashorras told him it contained pirate compact discs. He said he was to be paid 600 euros by Trashorras to transport the bag on the 5th January 2004, and that Trashorras told him to be very careful that the bag was not stolen. Álvarez claimed that at no time was he aware that he might be carrying explosives; the bag was transported in the luggage compartment of a bus. At the exit of the bus station in Madrid he was met by someone driving a BMW car, at the time he did not know who this was but after the train attacks he was able to identify the person who collected the bag as Jamal Ahmidam, “El Chino”. He claims that on returning to Asturias he was given some hashish by Trashorras, but that he never received the 600 euros he had been promised. He also stated that he avoided further contact with Trashorras after being told by Iván Reis that he had also transported a bag to Madrid, and that it contained hashish. He also testified that a friend told him he had seen a BMW car very similar to that which he saw in Madrid, but this time the car was in Avilés, he supposed that this could be the same car.

Álvarez was followed by Iván Reis, who testified that he did not know that a sports bag which he took to Madrid on January 9th 2004 contained explosives. He claimed that Trashorras had told him the bag contained hashish in bad condition that had to be returned, in return for taking the bag Reis would settle a debt he owed to Antonio Toro and in addition was promised 300 euros. He claims that Trashorras and Toro threatened him with a pistol to get him to make the journey, and that on the day he was taken to the bus station in Oviedo by Trashorras, it was the latter who put the bag into the luggage compartment of the bus. On arrival in Madrid he was met by someone who he later identified as being Jamal Ahmidam, El Chino. He alleges that El Chino took the bag and demanded an envelope containing money in addition; when Reis showed he was carrying nothing else he says that El Chino stole his wallet and mobile phone. Following this he said that he spoke to Trashorras who reassured him that he would sort this out when El Chino came to Avilés soon after.

The last of the 29 accused to appear was Javier González Díaz, who denied that he accompanied Trashorras to the Conchita mine or that he kept watch while the other man entered with the intention of stealing dynamite. He also denied knowing that Trashorras was involved in explosives trafficking. González has been accused by Gabriel Montoya of making the visit to the mine with Trashorras, but the accused claims that he was incriminated by Montoya because the latter had been accused in turn by González of stealing his car. He said that he knew Trashorras via Montoya, and that he began to work with him in buying and selling cars as he is a mechanic by profession.

González admitted having travelled with Trashorras to Madrid at the beginning of February 2004, although he claimed to be unaware of where they went because he is unfamiliar with the city. He claims that he remained in the car while Trashorras went somewhere else for a period of about 45 minutes. He also said he made a second journey to Madrid at the beginning of March 2004 at the request of Montoya's mother to find her son following a traffic accident.

González was the last of those accused to testify, and there was still some time on day nine for the next phase of witness testimonies to begin. The first witness to appear, 682 have been called in total, was a chief inspector from the police Central Unit for External Information (UCIE). The anonymous agent, identified only by the number 18,403, appeared behind a curtain to guarantee his security. On the 11th March 2004 he was responsible for a section dedicated to everything relating to North Africa, and received instructions to seek any information concerning what had happened, and why.

He stated that the very high risk of another attack made it an absolute priority to find those behind the bombings. Things began to move, he said, with the discovery of a Renault Kangoo van on the afternoon of the 11th March close to the railway station at Alcalá de Henares. In this van the police discovered some traces of Goma 2 Eco, the explosive used in the bombs. At the end of the same day came the news of a claim of responsibility made in the name of the "Abu Hafs Al Arabi Brigades" in a British arabic language newspaper.

He explained that on the 13th March, the telephone card recovered from the only unexploded bomb led the police to the shop in the Madrid district of Lavapies owned by Jamal Zougam. The witness said that at this point there was still no certainty on authorship of the bombings, but most of the evidence pointed to Islamist responsibility. He recognised that initially the police were also taking into account the possibility of ETA being responsible, partly because of the interception less than two weeks before of a bomb being transported towards Madrid by ETA members.

This officer stated that the police took seriously the possibility of Islamist attacks both because of threats from Osama Bin Laden, and also because of events such as the attacks took place in Casablanca. He said that the level of alert had been raised and the number of officers attached to his unit had increased. At this point in his testimony the session was brought to a close.

El Mundo - Raúl González
El Mundo - Emilio Llano
El Mundo - Iván Granados
El Mundo - Sergio Álvarez
El Mundo - Iván Reis
El Mundo - Javier González
El Mundo - police witness 18,403

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