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

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