Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Trial....Day 30, April 25th

The Contact of "El Egipcio"

The day began with a novel appearance; Oulad Chabarou is a witness who is currently imprisoned in Belgium. His participation in the Madrid bombings trial was implemented via a video conference connection to Brussels. The witness made his declarations in Arabic. This witness was questioned about links to Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (known as “El Egipcio”). The witness said that he got to know El Egipcio in 2001 in a mosque in Madrid. He said their relationship was a commercial one. In 2003 when the witness was in Paris, he was given the telephone number of El Egipcio. Later when he returned to Belgium the two men spoke by telephone about 3 times. Chabarou said he did not know when El Egipcio went to Italy, only that the calls he received after March 2003 were from this country. The witness stated that El Egipcio called him in April 2004 and the other man asked him if he knew Serhane ben Abdelmajid and Fouad el Morabit. Chabarou replied that he knew only El Morabit. El Egipcio told him about the deaths of the men in Madrid, the witness said in court that he though the deaths had occurred in an accident.. El Egipcio told him that he had much to tell, but that it was best not to talk by telephone. After this conversation the witness was unable to get in touch again with El Egipcio. He said that he did not know why El Egipcio left Spain.

The witness said that El Morabit assisted him when he had economic problems in 2001 and that they both exchanged telephone numbers. El Morabit had given him some clothes, after this they had no further contact. Chabarou admitted that Said Berraj stayed at his house in Belgium for 3 days in 2004. When the witness was asked about the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, he said that he was unaware of the existence of this group when detained in June 2004, and he denied knowing those alleged to be involved in this group.

The Islamist Accused of Contacts With ETA

Abdelkrim Bensmail was questioned about his relationship to members of ETA, and denied knowing any of those named; saying that notes found with their names in the prison of Villabona did not belong to him. The witness is currently in prison because of his connections to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group. He also denied knowing the formula for an explosive mixture that is said to have also been found in his possession. He did admit to knowing one of the Leganés suicides, Allekema Lamari, and that Lamari had sent him money.

Friends or Workmates of the Accused

Hatem Ghanouid Jebnoun told the court that he got to know Serhane ben Abdelmajid (“El Tunecino”) immediately after arriving in Spain. This witness is also from Tunisia, and the two were presented to each other by a student friend. The witness said that El Tunecino lent him some money, but that later they fell out with each other and El Tunecino demanded the return of the loan. The last time he saw him at the beginning of March 2004, El Tunecino said he was going to Tunis and asked him for forgiveness.

Marco Luis Valbuena González worked in 2003 together with Rachid Oulad Akcha, one of those killed in Leganés. The witness said that at the end of February 2004 Akcha shaved off his beard, the witness was not aware of whether he had strong religious convictions but declared that another workmate had told him that Akcha was an extremist. He stated that Akcha left his job around the 4th March 2004.

Railway Security

The witness identified only by the number 459 is a senior manager for safety and security issues in the Spanish railway company, Renfe. The witness declared that Renfe had a policy of progressively improving the security of their installations. In Atocha and Chamartin stations in Madrid they had installed security cameras that recorded what was filmed, the cameras in other stations did not record. At the time of the bombings, the cameras in the station at Alcalá de Henares, where the bombers are suspected to have boarded the trains, were not able to record; they were there principally to assist the circulation of trains. After the bombings, Renfe increased the resources they dedicated to anti-terrorism measures. The line where the bombings happened is now patrolled by special security teams.

The Telephones Used in the Bombs

In 2004 Barbara Bonilla Hernández worked for Interdist Móviles, selling mobile telephones and preparing the associated contracts. She also activated phone cards before the sale if asked to do so by her managers. She said she knew nothing about any relationship between her company and Sindhu Enterprise, or any of the other companies linked to the sale of the telephones used in the bombs. She declared that they recorded identification of the telephones they sold.

The trial is interrupted by the May Day holiday in Madrid and resumes on Thursday May 3rd.

Footnote: At last on this day we got some evidence relating to those are accused of being the "intellectual authors" of the bombings; those who were behind the attacks without directly participating in their execution. So far they have barely been mentioned in the trial since their inital declarations. The evidence on this day is hardly damning, although it does relate El Egipcio to Islamist circles. Meanwhile the ETA-Islamist connection was on show again with the appearance of Bensmail, we are still left with nothing more than hints and innuendo about such a connection. That Islamist and ETA prisoners have coincided in the same prisons in Spain is very likely, that they may have talked to each other is quite possible; that they have ever collaborated together in any terrorist actions is completely unsupported by any facts and considered to be an extremely unlikely possibility by experts in the field.

El Mundo - Chabarou
ABC - Chabarou and Bensmail
Datadiar - Daily summary

The Slow Death Of The ETA Connection

The battle by Agustín Díaz de Mera, in charge of the Spanish police at the time of the Madrid bombings, to avoid prosecution for contempt of court continues. Díaz de Mera got into this mess because he decided to repeat in the trial a claim he had made on a pro-conspiracy theory radio programme; that an official report existed linking ETA to the Madrid bombings. The senior police officer that he eventually named as his source for this claim, Enrique García Castaño, has not only firmly denied having been a source for the claims, he has also made it clear that Díaz de Mera put him under intense pressure to help his "friend" out of the hole he had dug for himself. Immediately following the appearance of García Castaño in the trial, Díaz de Mera issued a statement calling him a liar and challenging him to a face to face confrontation before a judge. Obviously such a confrontation would just be the word of one man against another, in the absence of anyone else to offer evidence on the issue. The mistake Díaz de Mera made when he appeared in court, thinking that he could just casually introduce the conspiracy theory on ETA participation, without providing evidence, continues to haunt him.

In general things are going from bad to worse for the proponents of ETA participation in the bombings, not that this is likely to stop them from repeating the mantra. The appearance last week of the 3 ETA members demonstrated just how farcical the whole issue is, as those who had demanded the appearance of these witnesses showed themselves completely unable to confront them with any evidence at all demonstrating their connection to the train bombings. When the final results of the explosives analysis are released we can expect a huge amount of noise from the chess players because one single test on one single sample from many is said to have shown traces of nitroglycerine. The conspiracy theorists will claim this to be proof of the use of Titadine dynamite instead of Goma 2 Eco, and therefore proof of ETA involvement because Titadine has been used by them on several occasions. It is nonsense, and I will write in some detail on the issue when it comes up. It will be the only thing the faith based reasoners who so fervently desire any kind of connection to ETA have left to offer.

El País

The Trial....Day 29, April 24th

The Explosion in Leganés

This day saw testimony from several police officers concerning the events in Leganés on April 3rd 2004. I have not included all witnesses here as much of the evidence is repetitive, a fuller account can be found in the Datadiar summary sourced at the end of this post.

An inspector in the bomb disposal squad (Tedax), identified by police number 28247, testified about his work at the site of the explosion in Leganés on April 3rd 2004. He said that he was not officially on service this day, but voluntarily decided to go to the scene. He arrived after the explosion and helped in the collection of evidence samples both outside and inside the building. He testified that there were human remains in the swimming pool of the block. Another Tedax witness, with police number 36775, arrived at the scene at about 18:00 when the area was already cordoned off. After the explosion he assisted with the collection of evidence including explosives and clothing. A third witness from the Tedax, number 36906, also participated in the collection of evidence following the blast. This witness also participated in the deactivation of the unexploded bomb found in the police station of Puente de Vallecas on the morning of the 12th March 2004. The Tedax witness with police number 60377 declared on finding a detonator on one of the bodies of those who died in the explosion, as well as explosive traces.

The Tedax witness number 64338 was present at the scene in Leganés from 7 p.m. This witness saw the explosion, he testified that first came a small explosion as the special forces (Geos) blew open the door of the apartment. This was followed a minute later by the main explosion. The witness was amongst those who went to the assistance of an injured member of the Geos. He was involved later in the recovery of some explosive in the grounds of the block where the explosion occurred. Later that night, after the swimming pool had been emptied he inspected a rucksack on orders of the judge at the scene. Inside the bag was a gun. Further inspection of mattresses in the swimming pool revealed the presence of a detonator attached to a piece of flesh. Nearby to a body they found a bag containing explosives. Another Tedax witness, number 76109, also participated in the collection of evidence following the explosion. He said that after the emptying of the swimming pool they found 2 lumps of explosive, a mattress, 2 bodies and 2 copper detonators. A machine gun was also found and photographed by the witness.

The Alleged Source for the Connection to ETA

Police witness 15761 (Enrique García Castaño) was in charge of the operational support unit on the 11th March 2004. On the 12th March he was given a mobile telephone card for investigation to find out the telephone number, the name in which the number is registered, and the place where the card was sold. It was a card from the operator then known as Amena. Within a couple of hours they obtained the information on the number and the place where it had been sold; information which was passed on to those handling the investigation. He said that it was members of his unit who first checked the shop where the card was sold, Sindhu Enterprise; pretending to be customers to verify that the shop sold cards and the way they went about it. It was on the 13th March that they discovered that the card had been sold to Jamal Zougam.

The witness declared about Leganés saying that on the morning of the 3rd April they had identified the estate agent who rented the apartment as a result of a telephone call that had been made by Said Berraj. The unit controlled by this witness was also involved in surveillance of Hassan el Haski in Lanzarote, their role was simply to inform on the activities of the suspect.

The witness declared that he was a friend of Agustín Díaz de Mera. He said that Díaz de Mera called him after declaring in the trial on March 28th, telling him that he was under political pressure. Díaz de Mera asked for his help and the witness told him that he was prepared for his name to be mentioned but not as a source for suggesting that ETA had connections to the bombings. He said that he told Díaz de Mera that a report had been prepared on possible links between ETA and Islamists, but that he was wrong to think that this report established any such relationship. The witness stated that the next day the 2 men had a similar conversation, and that Díaz de Mera used their friendship to try and get him to support the allegations he had made. He declared that he spoke to Díaz de Mera both before and after the radio appearance when the original allegation was made and told him that no link existed connecting ETA to the bombings.

The Skoda Car

Francisco García Martínez is an employee of the Hertz car rental company, and testified on the Skoda car belonging to this company that was believed to have been used to transport some of the bombs placed on the trains. He was the employee responsible for recovering this stolen car once its ownership had been established. He said he checked the exterior of the car, but not the interior.

Alcalá On the Morning of the Bombings

At the time of the bombings, Luís del Moral was president of the community of owners for the block where he lives in Alcalá de Henares. It was the caretaker of this block who noticed some men leaving a van parked near the building and heading towards the railway station on the morning of the train attacks. The caretaker told him what he had seen at about 10:30 a.m., after the bombings. He then informed the police who told him they would send someone to take a statement; which they did shortly afterwards.

The House Where the Bombs Were Prepared?

Mohamed Nidal Acaid is the husband of the owner of the house in Morata de Tajuña where it is alleged the bombs were prepared. He declared that the house was rented twice, the second time to Jamal Ahmidam. The witness said that he was in prison at the time and was unaware of the rental arrangement. The witness admitted to knowing Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah Dabas.

Footnote: The main interest of the day has been the testimony of the senior police officer named by Agustín Díaz de Mera in his attempts to escape being formally charged with contempt of court. The result, from someone who declares himself to be a long standing friend of Díaz de Mera, has been a complete repudiation of the allegations made about a connection to ETA; which was never backed up by any concrete evidence anyway. It's not the end of this story, which has become another of the sideshows running together with the main trial. Most of the rest of the day has been taken up with testimony about Leganés, and what the police found after the explosion. Under normal circumstances it would be seen just as routine confirmation of the facts. However, the conspiracy theorists would dearly love to have an angle to attack the validity of the account of what happened in Leganés; apart from outlandish suggestions on the planting of dead bodies and claims that it was all too "theatrical", they have not so far been able to make headway on this issue. Yet if Leganés stands, then so does much of the rest of the prosecution case.

La Vanguardia - García Castaño
El Mundo - Leganés
Datadiar - Daily summary

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Trial....Day 28, April 23rd

Members of ETA Declare

Gorka Vidal Álvaro was arrested following the interception of a van carrying explosives in February 2004. The witness is accused of being a member of ETA, when questioned in court he refused to give details of the operation in which he was arrested. The presiding judge warned him that he was obliged to answer questions. The witness denied having anything to do with Jamal Ahmidam or with the Madrid bombings. When reprimanded by the judge for his attitude in response to the questions, the witness replied that he should not even be present in the court.

The next witness, Irkus Badillo Borde was arrested together with Gorka Vidal. He said he did not know either the origin or destination of the van carrying the explosives. He declared that he does not know Jamal Ahmidam or any other Islamist activist. He had nothing to do with the Madrid bombings.

Henri Parot is a convicted member of ETA and has been in prison since 1990. He has been called as a witness because his name was said to have been found in possession of an Islamist prisoner. He also denied any connection with Islamist terrorists.

The Police and Jamal Ahmidam

The witness from the Guardia Civil, police number E-68411-L, stopped a Toyota Corolla car for a speeding offence. The driver identified himself as Youssef ben Sellam and showed a Belgian passport. The identification is one used by Jamal Ahmidam, accused of being the operational organiser of the train bombings. The vehicle was not searched, and the witness issued the driver with the speeding fine.

The Head of the Forensic Police

Carlos Corrales was in charge of the forensic police at the time of the bombings. He said that as soon as he heard about the bombings he gave orders for a team to attend the sites of the explosions. He declared that collection of evidence at the sites was done together with the bomb disposal squad, known as the Tedax. The latter were responsible for collecting samples of explosives, as well as informing on the components found in these simples. On the Renault van discovered in Alcalá de Henares it was this witness who gave the order to take it to the headquarters at Canillas. He was at the emergency centre in the IFEMA exhibition complex when he was informed about the discovery of detonators in this van. The witness was also present in Leganés on the 3rd April 2004, when 7 of the group accused of the bombings blew themselves up. The witness declared that the team working with the bodies of the victims was told to be on the lookout for indications of possible suicide bombers amongst the dead. He said that this was the first time such an instruction had been given for a terrorist attack in Spain.

The Leganés Explosion

The national police witness identified by police number 38736 testified on his presence at the siege of the apartment in Leganés. On arrival at the street where the apartment was located he entered the patio of the block. He declared that he heard shots from a window on two occasions. When the explosion occurred he was behind a column, although the blast damaged his hearing and he took no further part in events at the site.

Cartagena and Leganés

The witness from the national police, with number 17814, testified on the process of taking witness declarations that he was involved with following the bombings. This witness was also the police controller of the informer Cartagena, who has already testified as a witness in the trial. He testified that he never met Cartagena alone, and that the informer told them about Islamist activities, but never about concrete plans for attacks. All meetings with Cartagena followed telephone calls from the informer; one such meeting was arranged on the 2nd April 2004 following the abortive attempt to bomb the high speed railway line linking Madrid and Sevilla. The meeting was arranged for the 3rd April and they met in the Juan Carlos 1 park in Madrid. He denied any suggestion that the reason for the meeting was the events that took place the same day in Leganés. The witness no longer has any responsibility for dealing with Cartagena.

On the question of Leganés, the witness testified that the location of the apartment was made as a result of the tracking of telephone calls made by suspects. From these calls they found the number of an estate agent which had rented the apartment in the street of Carmen Martin Gaite where the siege took place. They got this information in the early afternoon of the 3rd April.

The national police witness 75036 testified on events in the investigation following the train attacks. The witness participated in an operation in Granada where they had to search a house. He said they found the house to be almost empty with few signs of anyone living there. They took photographic and video evidence of the house, and looked for fingerprints. This witness was also involved in the inspection of the Renault Kangoo van and again a photographic and video record was taken of the vehicle. The witness was present when the van was opened for inspection and said that the rear part of the van contained various objects.

The Asturian Connection

Pablo Álvarez Moya is a witness who admitted knowing both Emilio Suárez Trashorras, and the latter’s former wife Carmen Toro. He declared that he travelled to Madrid in October 2003 with Toro and Trashorras. On the way to Madrid, in Majadahonda, they stopped to meet Rafa Zouhier. The witness did not know what Trashorras and Zouhier talked about at this meeting. In Madrid they went to eat at a branch of McDonalds in the district of Carabanchel in the company of Zouhier and 5 other North Africans, although the witness was not seated at the same table and did not hear what was being discussed. On the way back to Asturias there was no discussion of anything that had happened in Madrid, and the witness never saw Zouhier again.

Another witness, Carlos Alberto Tejeda, knew José Ignacio Fernández; also known as “Nayo”. He said he visited Nayo in prison because he might have information useful for some clients of his (the witness is a lawyer). He declared that Nayo gave him information on an operation involving the trafficking of arms and explosives to ETA. The witness said he passed this information to the prosecution service in Asturias.

The police witness Francisco Javier Gascón Cornejo dealt with a person called Lavandera who arrived at the police station one Sunday saying that he wanted to give some information to the police. According to the witness, Lavandera mentioned that he had been offered the chance to participate in crimes concerning the trafficking of drugs and explosives and that those involved had mentioned a possible relationship to ETA.

ETA Members in Madrid?

The witness Carolina Folgueira Flores went to a Madrid underground station on the afternoon of the day after the bombings; on her way to the demonstration of protest. She declared that she saw some people on the platform that looked familiar and that one of them smiled at her. Later from police photographs she identified these people as suspected members of ETA.

Falsely Accused

Juan Manuel Olbiols Touceda phoned Telemadrid on the 13th March to ask if they were going to report on the demonstration taking place outside the headquarters of the Partido Popular. He was detained by the police the next day and told that he was accused of involvement in the bombings. He was interrogated, but after he made his declaration he was released. The police told him that the number of his mobile telephone coincided with that used to make a claim of responsibility for the bombings.

Footnote: The appearance of members of ETA in the trial was one of the things that had the conspiracy theorists highly excited when it was first announced. In the end they came, they denied any knowledge of the bombings or contact with those responsible, and they went. It took about 20 minutes of the court's time to deal with these witnesses. There is of course no evidence linking any of them to the bombings; so it could hardly be otherwise. Even those lawyers whose only function in the trial appears to be the introduction of the conspiracy theories by any means were left without much to say, so much attention for nothing. the absurdity of the whole issue becomes very clear if you read the transcript of the questions provided by ABC below. Meanwhile the rest of the day provided little of substance, although we got another example of Jamal Ahmidam getting past police control with his fake identification and a stolen car. On Leganés, the issue of how the police found the apartment where the explosion occurred is becoming a bit clearer. There is also first hand testimony that rebuts the absurd claim that the Kangoo van was stuffed with incriminating evidence at some point on its journey between Alcalá de Henares and police headquarters. Even if you were to accept any of the conspiracy theory claims, such an action just wouldn't make any sense; it suggests that those behind the supposed great conspiracy were just improvising as they went along.

El Mundo - ETA witnesses
ABC - ETA witnesses
El Mundo - Jamal Ahmidam
Datadiar - Daily Summary

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Trial....Day 27, April 18th

The Head of the Forensic Police

Miguel Angel Santano is currently the head of the forensic branch of the police, at the time of the bombings he was the chief of the Madrid provincial branch. He said that on the day of the bombings his unit acted in the station of Santa Eugenia, and supervised the transfer of the dead to the IFEMA exhibition centre that was used as an emergency morgue. In IFEMA they worked on the identification of the bodies. A member of his unit was also present during the deactivation of the unexploded bomb found in the police station of Puente de Vallecas.

Santano stated that he was informed some time after 14:00 on the day of the bombings about the discovery of the Renault Kangoo van near Alcalá railway station, and that it was to be transferred to the headquarters of his brigade. Later he received another call advising him that the van was being taken to the central headquarters of the forensic police at Canillas. He said that two members of his brigade were involved after the explosion in Leganés that killed 7 of the alleged perpetrators; he was not involved in this action.

Nobody Mentioned Titadine

Santiago Cuadro Jaén was in charge of the police division responsible for public security on the day of the bombings. He testified that he was informed about the bombings at 7:50 on that morning, and headed immediately for Atocha station in Madrid. The emergency services were still arriving and he used his car and driver to help some of the wounded; however they had to stop shortly afterwards as evacuation took place because of the discovery of an unexploded device. Later he went to the station at El Pozo, where he remained until 13:00. Following this he passed by another station affected by the bombings, Santa Eugenia, and then the police headquarters at Canillas.

The witness stated that he received reports from the bomb disposal squad (the Tedax), and that he was given a preliminary report on the number of explosions and the places where they occurred. At about midday he was called by the sub-director of the police from a meeting in the Ministry of the Interior asking him about the explosives used. The witness said that he returned the call later and reported that he had been told by the Tedax that the explosive used was dynamite based on initial impressions on the damage caused by the explosives. Later in the afternoon it was confirmed by a Tedax laboratory chief that the explosive had been dynamite. Cuadro denied that he had ever said to anyone that the explosive used had been Titadine.

At 1:45 the next morning Cuadro said that he was informed about the imminent deactivation of the unexploded device found in the police station at Puente de Vallecas. When he arrived at the park where the device had been taken for deactivation he said the zone was cordoned off. The witness approached the device and saw a blue bag and a mobile phone. Cuadro was also present in Leganés on the 3rd April 2004. He declared that when he arrived at the scene the area around the apartment was already cordoned off, and nearby apartments had been evacuated. He was present at the time of the explosion in the apartment and said that there was a tremendous cloud of smoke. The police entered the building via the interior patio and saw a wounded Tedax member being brought out. They were not able to go up to the apartment itself.

The Identification of the Dead

The national police inspector identified by police number 81602 testified on her work on the 11th March in the emergency morgue. She was involved in the task of identifying the dead at the IFEMA exhibition centre. The witness said that they prepared an autopsy zone at the pavilion and that the autopsies commenced once the bodies had been numbered. All objects being worn by the dead were recorded and photographed to assist the process of identification. Another inspector involved in the same job, identified by police number 64447, also declared. This officer presented himself for duty on the morning of the bombings, despite not being in service on that day. His work consisted in reception of the bodies and in the setting up of the autopsy facilities. All data recorded was with the aim of identifying the dead.

The Day of the Bombings

The witness Raquel Fernández Suárez was working in the ticket office of the railway station at Alcalá de Henares on the morning of the bombings. She said that she remembered someone wearing a scarf and a cap and with only the eyes and nose visible coming to the window to buy tickets. She said this person first asked for a ticket to Torrejón, and then for one to Coslada; further down the line towards Madrid. The man spoke good Spanish but caught her attention because he was heavily dressed for a day when it was not cold.

José Luis Garcia San Roman caught the train that departed Alcalá at 7 a.m. He said he was dozing on the train when he heard a mobile phone ring 5 times. Immediately after there was an explosion. He was trapped after the explosion and declared that it took about 20 minutes for the smoke to clear, his main preoccupation was to avoid falling asleep. He is a member of the armed forces and said that after the attacks he handed in his regulation weapon because of the danger that he could lose self-control one day. The witness asked that more measures be taken to prevent similar attacks in the future.

The Asturian Connection

The witness from the Guardia Civil, police number Y-88769-P, was involved in taking the declaration made by one of those accused of involvement in supplying the explosives for the bombs; Iván Granados Peña. This witness could not explain why 2 declarations were taken, but denied that they ever took a declaration from the accused without the presence of a lawyer. Another Guardia Civil witness, K-65971-E, visited the Conchita mine, where it is alleged the explosives were stolen, in June 2004 to collect samples of earth for testing. The witness stated that explosives and detonators were discovered underneath some boxes during the inspection. The explosive discovered was both Goma 2 Eco and its preceding version, Goma 2 EC.

A witness from the national police, number 85745, took a declaration from Beatriz Higuera on the theft of a Toyota Corolla car alleged to have been used later by Jamal Ahmidam. This declaration was taken after the bombings occurred, the witness said that Higuera provided copies of fines which had been issued on the car in the name of Youssef ben Salah; an alias used by Ahmidam. Another witness present in this declaration, police number 86790, also testified.

ETA Members Identified in Madrid?

On the 11th March Antonio Beamonte González took a train on the Madrid underground at 9 a.m. During the journey someone boarded the train to play music for the passengers, one passenger complained that this was not appropriate after what had happened that morning. Another woman on the train replied that this had nothing to do with the bombings; the witness said that this woman was a suspected ETA member, Josune Oña. The witness said he recognised her photograph when it was published in the aftermath of the attacks.

The Renault Kangoo

José Garzón Huertas is the son of the owner of the Renault Kangoo van found In Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings. He said that the van generally contained possessions of his father, including a sports bag and tools. The witness confirmed that a music tape by the group Orquesta Mondragón found in the van belonged to him.

The Arrests After the Bombings

A deputy inspector from the national police, identified by number 65904, took part in the arrest of Jamal Zougam and Mohamed el Bakali. She declared that Zougam was arrested at 17:00 p.m. in the telephone shop which he co-owned.

Footnote: It was the declarations of the two senior police officers that attracted most attention on this day. Santano is a target for the conspiracy theorists because he is involved in a case that is possibly even more ridiculous than that of ETA and the ST timer. He has been accused by a Madrid judge of being involved in falsifying an official report that alleged a relationship to ETA based solely on the finding of boric acid in an ETA safe house and in the home of one of the accused in this case, Hassan el Haski. It is a crazy case that is entirely a product of the strenuous efforts made by the chess players to establish any kind of link between ETA and the Madrid bombings - I have already written about it in more detail on my other blog. The declaration by Cuadro was also interesting, because his testimony challenged that given by Pedro Díaz Pintado to the effect that Cuadro had told him the explosive used was Titadine. Why does this matter? It could just be one of those inconsequential first impressions from the chaotic day of the bombings were it not for the fact that the conspiracy theorists think that Titadine = ETA, and that the government at the time made the same assumption. In any case, the idea that Titadine was the explosive used was already dead by mid-afternoon on the day of the bombings.

ABC - Santano
El País - Cuadro

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Trial....Day 26, April 17th

Another impressively long list of witnesses for this day. Testimony is not necessarily in order of appearance as I try to make sense of this sudden and unexpected increase in judicial productivity.

The Renault Kangoo
The first witness to appear was José Garzón Gómez, owner of the Renault Kangoo van found in Alcalá de Henares and alleged to have been used by the bombers to carry the bombs to this town. The witness testified that his van was stolen either on the 27th or 28th February 2004, and that he reported the theft to the police. He said he had personal effects in the van and that these were returned to him together with the van after the bombings. On the 11th March he was visited by the police, and he was shown objects recovered from the van on the 12th and asked to confirm whether they were his. The witness testified that amongst the possessions returned was a tape in Arabic which did not belong to him, he returned it a few days later to the investigating magistrate.

Workers in the Conchita Mine
Daniel Fernández Fernández worked in the Mina Conchita, from where the explosives used in the bombs are said to have been stolen. He declared that detonators were stored in containers that were accessible to anyone who knew where the keys were kept, and that unused dynamite was left in the open air. He stated that one Monday in January 2004 he noticed that some boxes of explosive that had been there on the preceding Friday had vanished, he advised the mine guard about this. Another witness who had worked in the mine was José Ángel Morán Suárez, who declared that he worked there until the mine closed. He said that he occasionally saw police officers at the mine, and that at night there was no guard present. He knew nothing about the missing boxes mentioned by Daniel Fernández. The witness said that unused dynamite was not returned and that it was possible for full boxes to have been left in the open air.

Conrado Pérez Tronco began working in Mina Conchita 20 years ago, in the last few years he worked as a guard, passing to another mine after Conchita was closed. He said that he patrolled the mine daily, and that during 2003 and 2004 the Guardia Civil were there twice. This witness had no control over the use of explosives and what remained unused, this was the job of Emilio Llano, brother-in-law of the witness.

Another former worker in the mine, Manuel González Garcia said that he would normally ask the guard for the keys to the stores where detonators were kept, and these keys would normally be left there. He would leave any remains of explosive near to where he had been working and had seen boxes of dynamite often left by the entrance to where they worked. He declared that unused detonators were also left outside, and that the mine guard did not control the amount used by each miner.

Another witness connected to those accused of supplying the explosives was Roberto López Fernández, a friend of Emilio Suárez Trashorras. He also worked at the Mina Conchita from where the explosives are said to have been stolen. He declared that he had no responsibility for applying security regulations in the mine, he was only involved in technical tasks. The witness said that the mine closed after the bombings because it was no longer economically viable. He stated that he never saw explosives left in the open air at the mine, although they were left in the galleries. The witness was present during a Guardia Civil inspection of the mine in 2003, although it was the mine guard who accompanied the officers during the inspection. During an inspection after the attacks, in July 2004, some explosive and detonators were discovered outside of the designated stores.

Following López came Juventino Pérez Tronco, also a brother-in-law of Emilio Llano. He declared that he worked in Mina Conchita until shortly before the attacks. He testified on the difficulty of controlling the amount of explosive used by each miner. He said that he never saw the Guardia Civil inspecting inside the mine. Antonio Riesgos Suárez declared after Pérez, he said that he began working in Mina Conchita in 1988. Each day he would ask for the explosive he thought he needed, and said that nobody took note of this. He declared that everybody would leave excess dynamite near to where they had been working, as well as detonators. The rules only changed after the train bombings.

Ricardo Gutiérrez Sepúlveda knew Antonio Toro from a company where he had worked. He testified that Toro presented him to Rafa Zouhier in a Madrid discotheque Toro told him nothing about the reason for his visit to Madrid. He said that on the 11th March 2004 he was in Madrid with Toro. He testified that he never heard anything about hashish trafficking or any mention that the Moroccans could have been responsible for the bombings.

The following witness, Emilio Fernández Álvarez, was the administrator in 2004 of the company owning the Mina Conchita, Caolines de Merillés. He is now retired, although he spent more than 40 years as administrator of the company. He stated that the company was never penalised for any offence, and that the Guardia Civil inspected the mine when it suited them to do so and without prior notice. He could not say how many times they visited in 2003 and 2004. He said the mine closed when it was no longer profitable to keep it open. He confirmed that the mine used Goma 2 explosive.

After Fernández came another employee of the same company, Jorge Luis de la Torre González. In 2004 he was a senior administrator of the company, and as a result of the bills provided by the seller of the explosives used in the mine he was able to monitor the overall usage. He said that he noticed no change in explosives usage around the time of the train attacks, the company was using between 1200-1500 kilos of dynamite every month. The witness testified that the Guardia Civil would not advise about their inspections in advance. He declared that after the attacks the way in which explosives usage was calculated changed. This witness was one of the company representatives who met with the police in the aftermath of the train bombings. He said they asked questions about the organisation of the company and about security in the mines. He also stated that they provided the police with a list of current and former workers in the mines.

Beatriz Higuera Caldeiro was the owner of a Toyota car that was supposedly stolen on the 5th March 2003, a theft which was reported to the police. This car was allegedly used by Emilio Suárez Trashorras and later by Jamal Ahmidam, a fine related to the car has been recorded in the name of Youssef ben Salah; a false identity used by Ahmidam. The witness from the Guardia Civil, identified by police number D-25310-Q, testified on reports forming part of the judicial indictment. The witness testified on the explosives issue, stating that the lack of control on the identification of dynamite cartridges made it difficult to be sure exactly which mine the explosives came from. On the detonators found in the ruins of the Leganés apartment it was easier because almost the entire batch had been provided to Mina Conchita.

The Al-Qaeda Connection

Imad Edinn Barakat Yardas is more commonly referred to as Abu Dadah, and is said to be a leader of Al-Qaeda in Europe. He is currently in jail because of a conviction for belonging to a terrorist organisation. The witness said that he was not surprised by the Madrid bombings and that he saw them as a response to the invasion of Iraq. He denied knowing any of those alleged to have been the “intellectual authors” of the bombings, Youssef Belhadj, Hassan el Haski, and Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed. On the claim of responsibility made for the bombings in the name of the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, the witness declared that he only knew of this name via the media. He stated the same about the Morrocan Islamic Combat Group.

Abu Dadah did acknowledge knowing Mouhannad Almallah Dabas from some work the latter had done for him, although he denied having met Moutaz Almallah Dabas, Mouhannad’s brother, in London. He also declared that he knew Serhane ben Abdelmajid by sight from the mosque that both men attended. He denied any knowledge of the property in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro, alleged to have been used for radical Islamist meetings. He also denied knowing Fouad el Morabit, Basel Ghalyoun or Jamal Ahmidam. He said that he knew Jamal Zougam and that he knew about the telephone shop he ran. The witness said that he believed the Madrid bombings were carried out by followers of the Takfir sect. He testified that he did not know anyone who followed this sect.

Friends or Workmates of the Accused
Rubén Iglesias Díaz declared in court that he knew Emilio Suárez Trashorras through hashish deals, and that he was told by Trashorras at the end of February 2004 that some North Africans were going to arrive in Asturias with a hashish consignment. On the 28th February he got in touch with Trashorras about this supposed delivery. He said that he knew that Trashorras dealt in hashish for some time before the bombings.

Cristina Martín Olivera testified that she had a relationship with Rafa Zouhier, although she denied being his girlfriend. She declared that she saw Zouhier with an injured hand and that Zouhier told her it was because something had blown up, but that he never explained what it was. She testified that after the bombings Zouhier was worried about Arabs being arrested.

Mohamed el Idrissi was a workmate of Mohamed Larbi ben Sellam, they worked together in a gardening company. The witness denied that Larbi had mentioned to him the possibility of going to Iraq and that he asked for money to help him get there. In his police declaration the witness had said the opposite.

The Victims Have Their Say

Juan Carlos Meco Peñalver travelled on the morning of the bombings on the train that left Alcalá de Henares at 7 a.m. He declared that he saw 3 men with rucksacks on the train, they looked as if they were waiting for someone. Later they changed to another coach on the train. The witness was still on this train when a bomb exploded at the station of Santa Eugenia. He identified Allekema Lamari from a photograph shown in court.

The next witness was the brother of Laura Vega, another victim of the bombings who was caught by one of the blasts as she changed trains at Atocha station in Madrid on her way to work in the city centre. Laura is alive but in a persistent vegetative state as a result of the multiple injuries she suffered in the train attacks. She needs constant attention as she is incapable of movement. Her brother testified on how their mother had stopped working and their father had changed to a post with less responsibility and more flexibility so that they can dedicate more time to their daughter. Apart from declaring on the impact of the bombings on the whole family, the witness also mentioned an intrusion of privacy by El Mundo, who took photographs of his sister without consent and published them on the 3rd anniversary of the bombings last month.

The following witness, Antonio Miguel Utrera Blanco, was another victim of the bombings. He was travelling on the train that exploded near the Calle Téllez, just outside of Atocha station. He was on his way to university on the morning of the 11th March. He said that after the explosion it was like a “dance of sleepwalkers” as those who were able to leave the train did so. He lay down on a concrete wall until being removed on a stretcher, after which he was unconscious for a period. His hearing has been severely affected by the bomb, and as a result of blood clots he has suffered from strokes which have left his face partially paralysed. He made a plea for maximum sentences for the perpetrators and for an assumption of political responsibility by the government at the time.

The wife of the next witness, Francisco Javier García Castro, was caught in an explosion at the station of El Pozo. She phoned her husband from there, asking him to come and collect her; he took the car and arrived at the scene 8 minutes later. He said that he saw many dead and wounded in the station as he searched for his wife. He said there was total silence, and he managed to help some people as he continued looking for his wife. She survived because she was in between two explosion sites, and jumped off the train after the first bomb exploded.

Isabel Casanova Ortega lost her son and her former husband in the train bombings; they were both in the train that exploded in the station of Santa Eugenia. That day was the birthday of her elder son and his father and brother would normally ring him on this anniversary, but that morning they received no calls. They received confirmation that both had been killed about 24 hours after the bombings. This witness also made a plea for long sentences for those responsible, as well as demanding the assumption of responsibility by those in power at the time.

Jesús Ramirez was severely wounded in the train that exploded at El Pozo. He was sitting in the centre of the upper deck of one of the two-tier carriages. There were two explosions and after the second he lost consciousness. He has undergone several operations and still carries shrapnel from the explosion in his body; he also continues to receive professional psychiatric treatment.

Also testifying was Eulogio Paz, the father of Daniel Paz Manjón who died in the bombings. He declared that as soon as he heard about the attack he phoned Daniel’s mother, Pilar Manjón. Then he tried to phone the mobile telephone number of his son, but there was no answer. He went to different hospitals as well as El Pozo station to try and find his son; finally he ended up at the IFEMA exhibition centre where the reception centre and emergency morgue had been set up. The following day he was advised by the police that they had found the body of his son and that they needed to confirm it with DNA tests. His son was cremated on the 17th March. Paz asked for heavy sentences for those responsible, as well as the assumption of political responsibilities. He said he was sure that the meeting in the Azores, attended by José Maria Aznar, George Bush and Tony Blair to discuss launching the invasion of Iraq, would bring consequences for Spain.

Footnote: The declarations of the victims caught the most attention on this day, with their vivid accounts of what it was like to be caught in the train bombings, or to be trying to find out information about someone who was unaccounted for. It doesn't even matter whether you share all of the opinions expressed, it has brought the reality of what happened into a court room where so much time is necessarily spent on details that do not really communicate the full horror of the day. The "chess players" behind the conspiracy theories were appalled by this testimony, because some of the victims did not hesitate to point the finger at Aznar's government. On the blog of Luis del Pino there were some truly repulsive comments made by those who always like to claim to be acting in the name of the victims. Apart from the testimony of the victims, the day provided plenty of further evidence on the lack of control in the mine where the explosives for the bombs are said to have been stolen. In a country where security on the use of explosives was supposedly tight to prevent ETA having easy access to them, it is very revealing just how ineffective this security was in reality.

ABC - Abu Dadah
ABC - The victims
El País - Abu Dadah
El País - The Victims
Datadiar - Summary of the day

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Trial....Day 25, April 16th

After wondering whether it would be possible for the trial to get through the huge numbers of witnesses to be called more or less as expected, today there was a sudden snowstorm of witnesses called to testify.

The Policemen Who Stopped El Chino

On the 5th December 2003, Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino) was stopped by a Guardia Civil patrol. The officers who stopped him were the first witnesses to testify on this day. The first witness, identified by number J-35844-R, said that he belonged to the Guardia Civil post in Buitrago, to the north of Madrid. He declared that he and his colleagues stopped by a BMW car whose driver said that he needed help to get the car started. The driver identified himself with a Belgian passport, and was carrying a substantial amount of money in cash. The car also contained 3 knives and some stolen clothes. The driver identified himself as Youssef ben Salah, and said that he had come from visiting his sister in Bilbao. They did not arrest the driver, despite it being clear that the clothes in the car still carried the tags from the Corte Inglés shop. The witness said that only after the Leganés events did they realise that this person was El Chino.

Next appeared another member of the same unit, identified as officer L-03953-K. He said they came across the car whilst watching service stations because of robberies from lorries. The witness confirmed the account of his colleague on the contents of the car, and said the driver appeared nervous. He also claimed the driver accused them of being racists. The third witness on this issue, J-35844-R said that details of the knives found in the car were taken with a view to a possible prosecution for their possession.

Testimony was given on cars linked to those accused of the bombings. A witness called José Antonio Hidalgo López who works in a BMW concession in Getafe said that in March 2004 some people arrived at the concession with a BMW 530 car in need of repairs. He declared that it was Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil who asked him to do these repairs. The same person later returned with 5 others of North African appearance to collect the car without the repairs being done because the owner had to travel to Ceuta. Apart from El Akil, the witness also recognised Serhane ben Abdelmajid and Mohamed Afalah from photographs shown to him. Also testifying was a colleague, Francisco Espinosa de la Barrerra, who confirmed that it was El Akil who brought in the car. The witness could not recognise anyone in photographs that he was shown in court.

The next witness, Ikram Boulaion, testified about Otman el Ghanoui. She said she got to know him in 2003, and he helped her to recover from a bout of depression. At the time she knew him Ghanoui was not working because he had no residence permit. The only work she knew of him doing was at the house in Morata de Tajuña rented by El Chino. The witness said she did not know El Chino personally. She said that Ghanoui was not religious and that he did not have religious friends. One day Ghanoui told her he had lost his passport, although he never reported the loss.

The House in Morata de Tajuña

Also declaring today with reference to the house in Morata was Nayat Fadal Mohamed, the wife of the owner. She testified on details of the rental of the property. Several witnesses appeared on this day who are owners of properties near to the house. The first was Luis Pozo Martín. He said that he saw many people passing through the property and after the bombings he identified some to the police. He was followed by Lucía Moreno González, also owner of a property near to the house. She also testified on the number of people who visited the house, and recognised a couple from photographs shown by the police. From photographs shown in court she recognised Mohamed Oulad Akcha and Abdennabi Kounjaa. A third neighbour of the house, Alberto Lucas Torrijos, did recognise a couple of people from photographs as being those he had seen at the house. The witness sold a generator and two stoves to the occupants of the house. Another neighbour was Luis Alfonso Sánchez Moreno who said that between the 5th and 7th March 2004 he saw many cars at the property. This witness also claims to have identified Jamal Zougam at the property

The Video Claiming Responsibility

The next two witnesses declared on a video tape that was recovered from a wastepaper basket near to the main mosque in Madrid on the 13th March 2004. The first witness, Maria Carmen Casan Peralta, testified that she worked for Telemadrid at this time. They received a telephone call advising about the tape and its location. The caller said the tape was about the attacks and would only be left there for 10 minutes; the call came at about 19:40 p.m. She said the caller had an Arabic accent, and that she called the security department of the company, and to the police. The next witness was José Vicente Ayala, who was called by the head of security at Telemadrid. The witness went to the wastepaper basket and recovered the tape that had been left there. The police arrived shortly after; the witness had received the call because the time limit given for recovery of the tape had expired.

The Telephones Used in the Bombs

Rodrigo Montero Cepeda testified that at the time of the bombings he ran the company which supplied the telephones used in the bombs to the shop where they were sold. He ratified the bills for the phones and said that it was possible to provide the numbers of the telephones that were sold. Another witness testifying on this issue was Luis del Amo Asenjo, who worked in another company supplying telephone packs to the same shop. He also ratified the validity of bills showing packs sold by his company.

Mohamed Chaoui, the half-brother of Jamal Zougam and co-owner of the shop and call centre that Zougam also partly owned, declared in court that Zougam was not normally involved in the purchase of telephone cards and was not an expert in mobile telephones; he did not know how to repair them. He declared that on the morning of the bombings Zougam was at home sleeping and got up at around 10 a.m. He said that he went to work and that Zougam stayed at home.

A national police officer identified by the number 18964 declared on evidence provided by a protected witness concerning an offer alleged to have been made to a third person by Rafa Zouhier and El Chino to take the rucksacks containing the bombs to the trains. Next, a protected witness, identified as S20-04-Ñ-88, testified on the alleged trafficking of explosives in Asturias and what he was told by a fugitive, Ignacio Fernández Díaz (“Nayo”), about this trade. He said that Nayo wanted to escape involvement in Operation Pipol, an earlier case of explosives trafficking involving Emilio Suárez Trashorras and Antonio Toro. He said that Nayo left Spain in December 2003.

Rafa Zouhier

Acharf Ouahabi was a friend of Rafa Zouhier, and worked with him in a discotheque. The witness said that he had met Rachid Aglif, another of the accused, but he did not know Emilio Suárez Trashorras. He did not know whether Aglif and Zouhier were close friends. The witness was involved in a traffic accident after agreeing to take a car to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco at the request of someone in Madrid called Abdelilah. He declared that he worked together with Zouhier for about a year, and that his colleague was not very religious.

The officer of the Guardia Civil, I-11326-U, declared on the relationship of his unit with Rafa Zouhier. He testified that Zouhier provided information on arms and drugs trafficking. He said that Zouhier told him and a companion in 2003 that there people in Asturias trying to sell explosives. Each interview with Zouhier was reported. He stated that Zouhier provided them with a sample of explosive and that the sample was left for analysis with other members of the unit. When the witness returned after an absence, he was told that the explosive was very old and of no use. The witness said that between the beginning of March 2004 until after the attacks they had no contacts with Zouhier. After the bombings they got in touch with him because they were looking for someone else unconnected with the bombings. Zouhier only gave them information about El Chino after the bombings.

Another member of the Guardia Civil, identified as N-87960-Y, also declared on the relationship between this force and Rafa Zouhier. This officer declared that he only read the file on Rafa Zouhier after the attacks, and did not meet him before March 2004. He declared that he had no memory of Zouhier advising them about people in Asturias connected with the explosives. The witness said that nobody made the connection between the train bombings and the information they had received the year before on the attempts to sell 150 kilos of explosive.

The second last witness to testify was Jaoud el Bouzrouti, who testified that he know Mohamed Afalah and Abdelmajid Bouchar, as well as the Moussaten brothers. The witness said that is declaration to the police was based on what they told him to say, including that Bouchar had become more radical. He said he was afraid at the time he made this declaration. He testified that his relationship with the Moussaten brothers was as a neighbour and for playing football.

The last witness on a busy day was Safwan Sabagh who has testified to knowing Allekema Lamari. The witness said that he got in touch with Lamari after the attacks, he wanted to know why he had been detained. He also said that he had met Serhane ben Abdelmajid. He said he last spoke with Lamari on the 27th March 2004, but the latter did not tell him where he was.

Of all the police forces involved in the case, the Guardia Civil is currently coming off worst. Today provided further signs of that with the officers who let El Chino pass despite the fact that he was in possession of false documentation, stolen goods, and weapons. Meanwhile the handling by the Guardia Civil in Asturias of the information given to them by Rafa Zouhier is not impressive. They knew a year before the bombings that someone was trying to sell substantial amounts of explosives, and in the end they seem just to have forgotten about it.

ABC - El Chino and the Guardia Civil
El Mundo - Jamal Zougam's half-brother
Datadiar - Daily Summary

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Trial....Day 24, April 11th

The Day of the Chiefs

A big day in the trial as those who were in positions of responsibility in the police at the time of the bombings gave their version of events. It is testimony that carries a political impact as it touches on the decisions taken immediately following the bombings. First to appear was Jesús de la Morena, who was in charge of the Comisario General de Información of the national police when the bombings occurred. He occupied this position until the end of May 2004 when he left active service in the police. He had overall responsibility for the police divisions dealing with external and internal terrorist activities.

De la Morena declared that he first heard about the train bombings at round 8 a.m. on March 11th. At midday a meeting was held in the Interior Ministry where the possible authorship of the attacks was discussed. He said that at this meeting they discussed the possible involvement of ETA based on precedents of actions by this group, but also taking into account the lack of any previous warning of the attacks; something normal in ETA actions. The witness said that a call was received during this meeting by the operational deputy-director of the police advising that the explosive used had been Titadine; something which backed up the hypothesis of ETA involvement. At around 18:00 p.m. in another meeting the news was communicated that Titadine had now been discarded as being the explosive, and that all lines of investigation were open.

The witness had been to the police headquarters in Canillas earlier after having been advised about the Kangoo van found in Alcalá de Henares, and which contained detonators and a cassette tape in Arabic. After an initial investigation they were told the tape contained religious chants and could easily be obtained in the shops. In the afternoon meeting in the Interior Ministry these discoveries were reported. That same evening came the a claim of responsibility via an Arabic newspaper published in London (in the name of the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades), and assistance was requested from the Spanish and British intelligence services (CNI).

On the morning of the 12th March De la Morena was informed about the discovery of the unexploded "Vallecas" bomb. In the afternoon of the same day there was a high level meeting in the Interior Ministry where all emerging evidence was assessed. By this time the telephone and SIM card from the unexploded bomb were already being investigated. At this meeting the witness said there was no new evidence presented to support the hypothesis of ETA authorship. With the possibility of ETA being behind the attacks, the witness said that photographs of suspected members of ETA had been distributed, something which could encourage people to think they had seen them in the trains. Nevertheless, the units specialising in ETA continued to work on the case.

According to De la Morena, the key moment that tipped the balance towards Islamist terrorism was the information that the card used in the unexploded bomb came from the shop owned by Jamal Zougam, who was known to the police for his radical Islamist beliefs. This information was communicated to the witness on the morning of the 13th March, and in a meeting at 13:00 p.m. the intention to arrest Zougam and others related to the sale of the telephones or cards was announced. In another meeting later in the day the discovery of a video tape claiming responsibility for the bombings near to the main mosque of Madrid was reported.

In the days that followed a team of investigators was despatched to Asturias to follow up the trail of the detonators. It was the witness himself who ordered the detention of Emilio Suárez Trashorras after being advised of what the team in Asturias had discovered. De la Morena said that there was a constant worry about the absence of indications of suicide terrorists, if it was really a case of Islamist terrorism then it was still possible there could be more attacks. On the 2nd April 2004, a device was discovered on the tracks of the high speed train line (the AVE) connecting Madrid to Seville. The first lead to the apartment in Leganés came from the call traffic from the telephone cards being investigated. When the apartment was located came the reports from the scene of the group surrounded there. On the way to Leganés the witness was informed of information that came via the Spanish embassy in Tunis informing that the mother of Serhane ben Abdelmajid had received a phone call from her son telling her he was surrounded by the police and that he was going to die. They also had information on other calls made by those inside the besieged apartment. The witness declared that he saw the explosion at the apartment. Questioned on allegations of links to ETA made by the director general of the police at the time of the bombings, Agustin Díaz de Mera, the witness said he knew only what he had read in the media.

The next witness was Pedro Díaz Pintado who at the time of the bombings was the operational deputy director general of the Spanish police. At the time of the attacks he was in Barajas airport in Madrid; in the company of Agustin Díaz de Mera. They were due to fly to Asturias but cancelled the journey as soon as they heard about the attacks. On their journey to Atocha station in Madrid he received a phone call from a friend whose son lived near to the Calle de Téllez, telling him that his son had seen an explosion. Díaz Pintado said that they were amongst the first who arrived at Atocha and went down to the platforms, although they soon had to leave because of an unexploded device that was found. They went temporarily to the nearby Ministry of Agriculture where they received information about the explosions in other sites.

Later they both went to the Interior Ministry. At 12:00 there was a meeting of the minister and departmental chiefs. At this point there was already news of more than 100 dead. The witness called the head of the Citizens Protection division to ask about the explosive used and was told not to be in too much of a hurry, that they would get this information when it was known. He said the meeting examined the data on the possible connection to ETA, but there was the question of no prior warning having been given. Later in the same meeting he received a call from the same commander he had spoken to before who told him that the explosive used had been Titadine. Following the meeting he accompanied the Director General to the emergency morgue and reception centre set up in the IFEMA exhibition centre. At around 16:00 p.m. he was informed about the van found in Alcalá containing detonators.

At about 18:00 on the same day, the witness testified about the meeting held in the Interior Ministry. Shortly before this meeting he had been informed that the use of Titadine was now discarded, and the witness had to ring the Minister (Angel Acebes) to inform him about this. In the meeting the head of the scientific police explained what had been discovered in the van from Alcalá and the question was raised about the line of investigation to follow. News had also arrived of the responsibility claim made in a London based Arabic newspaper by an organisation called the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade.

By the next day they knew about the unexploded bomb discovered during the night and the afternoon of the same day saw another meeting at which it was confirmed that the traces of explosive from the van coincided with that from the Vallecas bomb. On the night of the 12th March the witness was informed about the link between the telephones and a shop run by some Indians in Madrid. The morning of the next day it was known that some of these telephones had gone to the shop in the Madrid district of Lavapíes run by people known to the police as Islamist radicals. It was agreed that those related to the telephone cards should be detained. By the afternoon of the 13th information was given on the detention of these people, and later the same evening they received news that Telemadrid had been informed by telephone about the video tape that was left in a wastepaper basket close to the mosque in Madrid.

Testifying on the events in Leganés on April 3rd, he was phoned to advise him that in the street of Carmen Martín Gaite in Leganés there had been some shots fired from an apartment and permission was asked to call immediately for the special operations unit, the Geos. The witness went directly to Leganés and approached the surrounded apartment from the area of the swimming pool. He testified that they heard religious chanting. Around 18:45 the Geos arrived at the scene, and the light, water and gas in the building was cut. The witness that they used the frequency inhibitor of the car they had to try and intercept calls and avoid the activation of bombs using mobile phones; however they had to turn it off because it interfered with communications between the police officers involved in the siege. By 20:30 they has some idea of the layout of the apartment thanks to the neighbouring apartment being the home of a police officer. They decided the best policy was to try and force those inside to come out by blowing open the entrance door and firing teargas into the apartment. The witness said that he gave the order that no Geos should enter the apartment. He also gave the order for the Geos to begin their operation, but with zero risk, meaning they should not try to enter the apartment.

The witness left his post at the beginning of June 2004, he said that this was for personal reasons. He testified that he was not aware of any links between ETA and Islamist groups and never ordered the preparation of any reports on the subject, nor was he aware of the existence of any such reports.

The testimony of the first two witnesses occupied most of the session, but there were short appearances by other witnesses. One was Jesús Rodríguez Lanza, an employee of the Hertz car hire firm who received the stolen Skoda car alleged to have been used by the bombers, and who discovered a suspicious suitcase in the car. The other witnesses were police officers who collected a bag said to have belonged to Saed el Harrak alleged to have contained a letter written by Abdennabi Kounjaa, killed in Leganés. On this issue the session closed.

The significance of this day is not just that it gives a coherent account of events as seen from the top of the police force that had to investigate the bombings. The political aspect of these events came to the fore because of the controversy over how the government at the time tried to maintain the thesis of ETA responsibility for as long as possible; with a general election about to happen on the 14th March. The evidence on this day makes it clear that the pointers to ETA involvement were already fading on the very day of the bombings, and that by the evening of the 12th March the possible Islamist leads were clearly stronger. Despite this emerging evidence the Interior Minister at the time, Angel Acebes, continued to insist that ETA were the prime suspects. Well those who were immediately below him have not backed up his version, and these are not politicians like Díaz de Mera, they are retired police officers who have no reason to follow anyone's political line and nothing to lose or gain. The argument that the government at the time made no attempt to manipulate events for their poltical advantage looks even weaker than it already was.

El País

The Trial....Day 23, April 10th

The Leganés Siege

Day 23 of the trial began with the focus once more on the events in Leganés on April 3rd 2004, when 7 of those accused of having participated in the bombings blew themselves up in an apartment surrounded by the police. First to testify was Pablo Muñoz Lopez, who is the head of national news for the newspaper ABC. He declared concering a fax in arabic found in the offices of the newspaper on Sunday 4th April. They reported the fax to the Interior Ministry and in the meantime were able to decipher enough to see that it contained a claim of responsibility for the train attacks.

Next to testify was a chief inspector of the scientific police, identified by the number 17597. He said that on the 3rd April he arrived in the area of the apartment in Leganés between 4 and 6 in the afternoon. Following the explosion inside the apartment he made a visual inspection together with members of the bomb disposal squad, the TEDAX. In the garden and swimming pool of the apartment block they saw human remains together with other objects including the remains of explosives, weapons, ammunition, identity documents, the remains of a computer and cassette tapes. Evidence was collected in registered evidence bags, and a video and photographic record was made. The witness was questioned on some documentation found with references to ETA, and declared that this documentation came from the adjoining apartment which was owned by a national police officer. The documents were returned to this officer with judicial authorization.

The witness was also involved in investigating the Kangoo van discovered in Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings, he declared that it was his decision not to investigate the contents of the van until it arrived at police headquarters in Canillas. The witness only became directly involved following the discovery of detonators under one of the seats. The van also contained clothes, and other personal effects. The witness was also in charge of inspection of the house at Morate de Tajuña where it is believed the bombs were prepared.

The next witness was another police chief inspector, number 19245, who also testified on the investigation following the explosion. he declared that the investigation at the site lasted 3 days in total. First it was the Tedax who took charge of recovering remains of explosives. Other objects recovered later included books, weapons, ammunition, personal documentation, explosives wrappers and detonators. The witness also declared on the photographic and video recording of everything recovered. He declared on human remains recovered following the draining of the swimming pool.

This witness was also present in one of the stations where bombs exploded on the 11th March, the station of El Pozo. He declared that he arrived there at around 9 a.m. and said that the TEDAX were involved in inspecting the area; they exploded a suspect rucksack. Following this came the removal of bodies and personal effects from the train. Later this same witness was present at Canillas when the Kangoo van was brought there. The witness said he took charge of a tape in Arabic found inside the van. He was also involved with subsequent investigation of the unexploded device found on the morning of 12th March in the police station of Puente de Vallecas, once it had been disarmed by the Tedax.

Next came a witness from the Tedax, an inspector identified by police number 66468. He declared that he arrived at Leganés after the explosion had occurred, and that entering the ruined block they found both detonators and remains of explosives. The witness also saw bodies with belts containing explosives. In the following days they continued their investigation at the site of the explosion. Another witness from the Tedax, identified by number 35690, declared on the quantity of explosives wrappers found, and said that these identified the explosive as Goma 2 Eco. He said as much as 9 kilos of explosives were recovered from the wreckage on the night of the explosion. A third Tedax witness, police number 75353, participated in the investigation in Leganés on the days following the explosion, and was in charge of collecting the explosives remains and wrappers found which were all stored in registered evidence bags.

Following these witnesses came testimony on different evidence concerning the bombings; two officers from the Guardia Civil testified on clothing found at a building site by Vicálavaro railway station on the day of the train bombings. One witness declared that they recovered trousers, gloves, a sweatshirt and a scarf. The second witness declared that the discovery of the clothes followed an alert received from one of the workers at the site who had seen a person abandoning the clothes there.

The attention of the court then returned to the Leganés siege with the testimony of 3 national police officers who were present at the time of the explosion. The officer identified by police number 28400 declared that he was present during the intervention by the special forces known as the Geos. He declared on the attempts by the Geos to get those inside the apartment to give themselves up, and that they replied by challenging the Geos to enter the apartment. He also testified that the Geos used gas to try and force those inside to come out. The witness said they had intercepted a call by one of those inside who said that explosives had been placed behind the door of the apartment in case the police tried to enter. He said that approximately half a minute passed between the introduction of tear gas into the apartment and the explosion. The member of the Geos who died in the explosion was very close to the entrance of the apartment.

Another officer, number 28354, who participated in the Geos intervention was given the task of opening the door to the apartment. He said they knew about the possibility of explosives having been placed behind the door but they placed a small charge to blow it open. The tear gas was launched into the appartment using a gas gun. He said that those inside were talking in Arabic and were in a very exciteable state - he heard Arabic chants. The witness was wounded in the explosion. The third witness to testify on this intervention was identified by police number 63853. He testified on hearing voices talking in both Spanish and Arabic inside the apartment, together with chants in Arabic. He heard those inside challenging the Geos to enter, and at the time of the explosion was separated from the officer who died by 3 other companions.

The Widow of "El Chino"

The rest of the session on this day focused on Jamal Ahmidam (El Chino), accused of being the main operational organiser of the bombings and who died in the Leganés explosions. First to testify was the widow of El Chino, she is a protected witness and was identified in court by the coded reference R-22.

She said that she first got to know her future husband in 1992, but that from 2000 until the summer of 2003 she did not see him because he was in prison in Morocco. She said that from October 2003 she started to notice that he had changed, he would not let her dress as she wanted and started to attend regularly at the mosque. He wanted to remove their child from a Christian school. She said that he possessed several cars and also used different mobile telephones. He would travel to Germany and deal in cars which he collected there; he assured his wife that he had left drug dealing.

The witness said that her husband had the house in Morata de Tajuña because he wanted to keep animals. She said she went there in February 2003 but that they were not allowed to enter because El Chino said that there men praying inside. Of the others accused of having participated in the bombings, she said that she knew the Oulad Akcha brothers and El Chino's cousin Hamid Ahmidam.

On the night before the bombings she said that her husband did not come home, on the 11th March she received a call from him from their telephone at home asking where she was. When she arrived home with her son he was no longer there, although he returned the next day saying that he had to go to France. In the following days she could not contact his mobile phone, although he eventually returned to Madrid. On the 19th March they went to the house in Morata, but returned that evening to Madrid and Jamal left that night. She never saw him again, although they had some contacts by telephone. Under further questioning she identified her husband as one of those talking in a video claiming responsibility for the attacks that was recovered from the wreckage of the Leganés apartment. She believed that he had been strongly influenced by Serhane ben Abdelmajid (known as "El Tunecino"), who she said had criticised Jamal for being married to a Christian woman.

The final witness to testify on this day was the mother of El Chino's widow, Rosa Maria de Inés Vicente. Her appearance in court was short, she stated that she did not notice the changes in El Chino's behaviour on his return from Morocco.

El Mundo - Leganés
El Mundo - Widow of El Chino
ABC - Leganés
Datadiar - Summary of the day

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Díaz De Mera Tries To Save His Skin

Agustín Díaz de Mera, the director general of the police at the time of the Madrid bombings, got himself into potentially serious problems when he testified a couple of weeks ago on allegations he had made about a report allegedly linking ETA to the bombings. He was fined for contempt of court and facing the threat of a possible jail sentence for failing to provide his source for the allegations he made in court.

It now appears that on the evening of the court session where he testified, Díaz de Mera was already on the telephone hunting for someone who he could name to escape any further judicial consequences concerning his allegations. Having failed to find anyone prepared to voluntarily accept being named as his source, he sent a letter to the court last week in which he provided the names of 4 police officers who he claims were involved in some way in the affair. Although the officers were not directly named in published versions, it did not take the press long to find out who was being referred to, and all officers involved have denied ever talking to Diaz de Mera about attempts to hide ETA links to the bombings. The policeman who has now been identified as the source referred to by Díaz de Mera, Enrique Garcia Castaño, has made it clear in a written statement to his superior officers that he received telephone calls from Díaz de Mera after the 28th March pressurizing him to say that he wass the source for the allegations made.

Díaz de Mera claimed that he was naming his source because his loyalty towards him had not been reciprocated. "Loyalty" in this case would presumably have meant a willingness to be identified as the source, regardless of whether it was true or not, so that the contempt charges would not be pressed further. It is a situation completely of Díaz de Mera's own making, and his attempts to make someone else the fall-guy for it are a sign of the ruthlessness and absence of integrity of those determined to maintain the fictional link between ETA and the train bombings. At least with his letter we got an important clarification, it became clear that the report he was referring to had not been hidden at all, there is a report on links between ETA and Islamists included in the judicial indictment; the problem for the conspiracy theorists is that it rejects such links. Díaz de Mera claims in his letter that he had been told that this report had been "manipulated" to remove suggestions of links that existed. Nobody has been able to provide a scrap of evidence to back up this claim, and the prosecution in the trial has requested that the 4 officers identified by Díaz de Mera be called to testify. If they do, it will be an interesting session, the former police chief may have his immunity from the European Parliament to protect him but he is not out of trouble yet. Looking at the issue from the outside, it is hard not to feel a certain amount of fear when you consider that this was the person in charge of the Spanish police at the time of the bombings.

International Herald Tribune - Spanish ruling party accuses ex-police chief of lying at Madrid terror trial
AOL News - Ex-police chief lying in Madrid bombing trial-minister

20 Minutos - La fuente que relacionaba ETA y 11-M, según Díaz de Mera, niega este vínculo
El País - La supuesta fuente policial de Díaz de Mera niega que le alertara de la vinculación entre ETA y el 11-M