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


Anonymous said...

Da la sensación de que Acebes no mintió; da la impresión de que el abulense Angel Acebes no mintió......

Graeme said...

"ETA sigue siendo la principal línea de investigación. Así me lo han manifestado las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad del Estado, es decir, los responsables de la investigación. No hay en estos momentos ningún motivo para que no sea la principal línea de investigación".

Angel Acebes after the emergence of clear evidence pointing to Islamist involvement.

tu anciana abuela said...

Desde el primer momento he tenido la impresión de que la policía mentía. No para encubrir a ETA, sino para encubrir SUS PROPIOS ERRORES.

Me hace el efecto de que los terroristas estaban siendo vigilados, y se esperaba el momento para cogerles con las manos en la masa.

Por alguna razón LA POLICIA LES PERDIO LA PISTA y no fue capaz de evitar el atentado.

Como no pueden reconocer esta metedura de pata, para tapar su torpeza, han llenado el proceso de pistas falsas -mochila, furgoneta, tipo de explosivo...

Algunos analistas
han dudado de la fiabilidad de estas pruebas, seguramente con fundamento.

Pero en la España de Trincheras en que nos hemos convertido, ya no impera la razón sino el odio:

La crítica al sumario es lanzada a la cara de Rodríguez Zapatero por aquellos que le consideran "presidente por accidente" y quieren verle fuera del poder.

La defensa ciega -por ejemplo este blog- queda a cargo de aquellos que odian la simple posibilidad de que La Oposición vuelva algún día al poder...

Lo de siempre; "Una de las dos Españas ha de helarnos el corazón..."

Graeme said...

The problem is that removing the allegation of ETA involvement doesn't make the conspiracy theories any more convincing, it just removes one layer of fantasy. Saying that the police faked the whole thing to hide their own errors is in some ways even harder to believe - because you are suggesting that they only started to invent all the evidence on the day of the bombings itself. This would require a well coordinated conspiracy of dozens, if not hundreds, of police - from different branches. No evidence that I have seen backs this up.

You don't tell me who the "analysts" are who support this view, if it is the Libertad Digital/El Mundo axis then I don't think they will convince me as there is more politics than data there.

You are wrong about this just being something to do with a division between the left and right. The dividing line between those who believe the conspiracy theories and those who don't runs through the right itself - there are many conservative Spaniards who do not believe it is acceptable to use the Madrid bombings as a tool for political revenge.

You are also wrong about this blog being a "blind defence" of the police case. Not believing the conspiracy theories is not the same as accepting that everything the prosecution says has to be true, I keep an open mind and I look at the evidence. Please read the disclaimer and the introduction.