Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Trial....Day 43, May 29th

This session began with continuing testimony from expert witnesses concerning explosives associated with the train bombings. The witnesses 47, 9278365-G, F-37053-V, 1457157-S, 26722108-H, 22411749-C, 12151358-K, Z-43731-T, F37053-V and B-45001-Z declared concerning a report on dynamite cartridges found during an inspection of the Conchita Mine in Asturias in June 2004. This mine is where the explosives used in the bombs are said to have come from. The report stated that they found 4 bags of explosives, 3 of which contained Goma 2 Eco, and one its predecessor; Goma 2 EC. Later they said they realised that another of those labelled as Goma 2 Eco was really Goma 2 EC. The explosives were tested for their components. The difference between the two explosives was the presence of dibutyl phtalate in Goma 2 Eco, and dinitrotoluene (DNT) in Goma 2 EC. The witnesses testified that production of Goma 2 EC ceased in 2002, but that there was a period of joint production of this dynamite and Goma 2 Eco between 1999 and 2002.

The specialist police witnesses 72622, 17632 and 28225 then appeared with the others (apart from F37053-V and B-45001-Z) to testify on a report concerning detonators and explosives recovered from the wreckage of the flat in Leganés destroyed in an explosion on the 3rd April 2004. They declared that a total of 17.4 kilos of Goma 2 Eco was recovered from the wreckage together with 14 green bags labelled with the name of the same explosive. Detonators were also found as well as almost 600 wrappers of dynamite cartridges. Analysis of the components of the explosive found confirmed that they matched the specification of Goma 2 Eco, no other explosive was identified.

Next came the declaration of witnesses 77626 and 81642 on a report they prepared concerning the stolen Skoda car believed to have been used by the bombers to help transport the bombs. These experts analyzed traces of explosive found in this vehicle, and testified that they were unable to formally identify a brand of explosive from the components found. Expert witness 16233000 declared on traces of nitroglycol found in a Golf car linked to the bombers.

The specialist witnesses 47, 9278365-G, F-37053-V, 1457157-S, 26722108-H, 22411749-C, 12151358-K, Z-43731-T took the stand to declare concerning the definitive report on the analysis of samples to ascertain the explosives used. A total of 88 different samples were tested of which 23 came from the sites of the explosions on the trains. The differences between the witnesses concerned a particular sample from the train that exploded at the station of El Pozo, with some of the analysts suggesting that the tests suggested the possible use of Titadine dynamite at this site, based on the traces of nitroglycerine that emerged in the analysis. Others suggested that the presence of this substance could only be due to contamination of the sample, previous tests on the same sample did not reveal the presence of nitroglycerine. There was also discussion of the presence in the same sample of dibutyl phthalate, a component of Goma 2 Eco.

3 samples of explosives recovered from the destroyed apartment in Leganés also showed traces of nitroglycerine, even though that explosive has been identified as Goma 2 Eco. Traces of the same component were also detected in samples of the bomb left on the high speed railway line, the explosive recovered from the van found in Alcalá on the day of the train bombings, and in the unexploded device found amongst personal effects from the trains. Some of the analysts suggested that this could be the product of contamination in the storage of the samples, or in the laboratory. Under questioning on whether the contamination could have occurred before bombings, the answer given was that such contamination was not detected in the tests carried out in 2004. There was discussion over whether the predecessor product of Goma 2 Eco, Goma 2 EC, contains nitroglycerine or not.



Footnote: Much of the day was taken up with debate on the results of the explosives analysis. It is important to bear in mind that the expert witnesses declaring were a mixture of police analysts, and those named by the defence or victims associations sympathetic to the conspiracy theories. Hence the emphasis by some of these "experts" on the only sample from the trains that contained nitroglycerine, vital to their case that Titadine could have been used. They offer no explanations for the presence of the dibutyl phtalate which does not belong to Titadine, or for the presence of DNT or nitroglycerine in samples of Goma 2 Eco explosive. It turns out that none of the analysts that were not from the police or Guardia Civil had any previous experience in explosives analysis. They looked for something to back their pre-prepared argument, and ignore anything that does not support that argument. Again, I refer anyone interested in more detail on this topic to my previous posts on it.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
El País - Explosives Contamination

The Trial....Day 42, May 28th

The Mental State of the Man Accused of Selling the Dynamite

The day began with the appearance of expert witnesses Juan Miguel Monje Pérez, Sira Peña López, José Luis Morán Junquera and Julio Bobes Garcia. These witnesses testified on the psychiatric condition of Emilio Suárez Trashorras. They declared that Trashorras had a personality disorder but that this did not affect his capacity to understand things. They said he presented no psychotic symptoms, although the only test on which their report was based was an interview with the accused. The witness José Luis Morán had treated Trashorras for several years and testified that he had observed a paranoid personality disorder in his patient, with additional symptoms resulting from alcohol and substance abuse. They said that Trashorras’ condition was permanent. They also said that he was not a schizophrenic. The witnesses believed that Trashorras was fully aware of the danger of dynamite given that he had worked in the mine from where the explosives used in the bombs are said to have been stolen.

Next the specialist witnesses from the Guardia Civil, identified by numbers M-95317-B and X-16151-P declared on their report on clothes that were abandoned near to the railway station of Vicálvaro on the morning of the bombings. From this clothing they recovered genetic profiles identifying Rifaat Anouar and Abdennabi Kounjaa.

The witnesses from the Tedax (bomb disposal squad) identified by police numbers 58655 and 66646 testified on a report they prepared on some detonators connected with the bombings. They were joined by another witness, with number 27390, to declare concerning a report they prepared on shrapnel associated with the bombs. They studied nails and screws that were recovered from the bombed trains and they found similarities between them; they were of a type that is freely available commercially.


The Explosives Used

The trial then entered into the issue of the explosives used in the bombs. The experts declaring came from the police, the Guardia Civil together with representatives of victims associations and the defence of some of the accused. These were the experts who had carried out the latest explosives analysis requested for the trial. Chief judge Gómez Bermudez began the questioning by asking about the components of Goma 2 Eco, the explosive said to have been used in the bombs. These components were identified as ammonium nitrate, nitroglycol, nitrocellulose, dibutyl phthalate and calcium carbonate. Next came the components of Goma 2 EC, the explosive that was the predecessor of Goma 2 Eco. These were listed as ammonium nitrate, nitroglycol, nitrocellulose and dinitrotoluene. Finally, the judge asked about the components of Titadine, and these were given as ammonium nitrate, nitroglycol, nitrocellulose, dinitrotoluene and nitroglycerine. It was made clear that none of the mentioned components are contained in the detonators used to explode the bombs.

The experts present were joined by other expert witnesses who declared on the unexploded bomb discovered in the early morning of 12th March 2004 in a police station in Vallecas, Madrid. These witnesses declared that this device was set to be activated by a mobile telephone connected to the detonator. The telephone was turned off and the reason the bomb did not explode was due to the poor connections made in the modification of this device. Despite this, the telephone itself was in perfect working order.

On the detonators discovered in the van found at Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings, the witnesses declared that 3 of these were identical to those discovered in the unexploded bomb. The telephones in the bombs were set to activate via their alarm facility. The witnesses also analysed the detonators discovered following the explosion in Leganés. They affirmed that the intensity of the current provided via the connection between the telephone and the detonator was sufficient to activate the bombs.

Next declared the expert witness with number 17632 from the bomb disposal squad (TEDAX). This witness declared to having prepared many reports on explosives used in bombings by ETA and other incidents involving the participation of bomb disposal units. The witness testified on the methodology used in the analysis of the samples collected from the sites of the train explosions. She declared that she analyzed 12 samples from sites of the explosions, and that these tests revealed the presence of components of dynamite; ammonium nitrate and nitroglycol. Based on this analysis she said that it was impossible to determine the commercial brand of dynamite used, because in the explosion the traces of additives or other components are lost. She told her superior officers only that the explosive used was “dynamite”. At no point did her tests detect either nitroglycerine or dinitrotoluene (DNT).

On the possibility of the samples being contaminated, the witness could not rule out this possibility although she emphasised that the presence of a contaminating agent in the atmosphere would have to be high. One of the analysts present expressed disagreement with this view. The witness carried out tests on the, now famous, sample of fire extinguisher powder recovered from the bombed train at the station of El Pozo. She declared that she found no other relevant substance in this sample.

The same witness declared also on the issue of master samples of explosive used for comparison purposes, she said that these came clearly labelled from the manufacturer. She said that the component dibutyl phthalate discovered in many of the analyzed samples is only a component of Goma 2 Eco, whilst DNT (also detected in many samples) is a recognised component of Titadine and Goma 2 EC. Questioned on the analysis of the samples using water and acetone, the witness said that only part of the sample was treated in this way. She was also questioned on the presence of metenamine in samples, and said that she concluded this must be a contamination as it was not present in the master samples of Goma 2 Eco. Another of the analysts present intervened to say that this substance could be produced as a by-product of analysis, or via contamination.

The witness declared on the conditions under which the samples had been stored, saying that they were kept in a closed and unlit storage place with constant temperature and humidity. They were stored in bags kept inside boxes that were in turn covered by other bags. She said that she never detected DNT in any of the samples. Those samples where there were doubts about the possible presence of other substances were sent for examination by the forensic police. All of the expert witnesses present acknowledged that the unexploded substances recovered from different sites connected to the case consisted of Goma 2 Eco. The witness was asked to provide her notes made on the initial tests to the court and after a recess these were presented. She said that she presented her initial conclusions to her superior officers between 14-14:15 p.m. on the day of the bombings.

The session ended with the testimony of different experts on the analysis of panels found lining a hole in the grounds of the house in Morata de Tajuña said to have been used for the preparation of the bombs. The only components of explosive detected were ammonium nitrate and nitroglycol.




Footnote: A big day as the analysis of the explosives finally made its entrance into the trial itself. Those who are interested in more details on the issue might like to read my post on the report that was presented to the court. The claim that no proper analysis of the explosives used on the trains was ever carried out took a knock today; the witness from the Tedax made it clear that she tested the samples recovered, and that the idea that you can identify a particular brand of explosive from such samples is not sustained. No nitroglycerine was found, the crutch of those who cling to the idea that Titadine may have been used; a past favourite of ETA. None of this means that the conspiracy theorists will drop their campaign, but they had their representatives from the analysis in court today and when they had the chance to make their case they failed to do so. A constant theme of the trial, those who believe in such theories can never complain that they had no opportunity for their outlandish claims to be tested, they have been present throughout the whole process.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Trashorras
ABC - Explosives

The Trial....Day 41, May 23rd

The Road From Asturias to Madrid

The day began with testimony from expert witnesses Y-57188-A and E-80152-J from the Guardia Civil. These witnesses testified on a report they had prepared concerning payments made on toll roads that supported evidence of journeys said to have been made by those involved in supplying the explosives for the bombs. The payments were traced to the accounts of Emilio Suárez Trashorras and Carmen Toro and were made at points between Asturias and Madrid. Under questioning from defence lawyers the witnesses conceded that use of the cards was not proof that the owner of the card made the journey. These witnesses also prepared a report on a BMW car belonging to Jamal Ahmidam, which has also been linked to Mahmoud Slimane Aoun and Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil because of repairs that were carried out on it.

In addition, the same witnesses declared on estimates they had made of the maximum amount of stolen explosives that the bombers could have taken from the mine. They estimated that as much as 270 kilos could have been taken on the weekend of the 28th and 29th February 2004 from the Mina Conchita in Asturias. The estimate is based on the capacity of rucksacks which those accused of the bombings are said to have bought in a Carrefour supermarket in Avilés that weekend. The witnesses declared that the estimate is compatible with evidence of explosives consumption at the mine. They also declared on other quantities of explosives said to have been transported to Madrid by associates of Trashorras. They stated that based on declarations by some of the accused they reached the conclusion that the bags were more likely to have contained explosives than drugs. Overall, they estimate the maximum amount of explosive likely to have been transported at 312.5 kilos.


Other Police Experts

The national police witnesses with numbers 17608 and 18502 declared on a report they prepared analysing the video tape claiming responsibility for the bombings that was left near the main mosque in Madrid. They also examined a tape found in the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés that was destroyed in an explosion on April 3rd 2004, as well as a video camera. They stated that the tapes had been recorded with the same camera.

Next came testimony from police specialists 148 and 51884822 on plastic bags found at different scenes associated with the bombings; Leganés, the house at Morata de Tajuña where the bombs are said to have been prepared, the Kangoo van discovered on the day of the bombings, and the unexploded bomb found amongst personal effects in a Madrid police station. The witnesses said that the bags compared had the same composition, and that those from Leganés and the Kangoo van were identical.

Expert witnesses 17587, 18479 and 19425 declared on prints found in the Kangoo van. Some were from the owner of the vehicle but of the others they were able to identify prints from Daoud Ouhnane. Witnesses 19245 and 19273 declared concerning a property in Albolote, Granada that is linked to those accused of carrying out the bombings. At this property prints were collected and identified as belonging to Rifaat Anouar and Jamal Ahmidam.


Reading of Witness Declarations

Next came the reading of the declaration made to the police on the 13th March 2004 by a protected witness, S20-04-R-10. The witness stated in this declaration that he took a train leaving Alcalá de Henares at 7 a.m. on the morning of the 11th March 2004. At the station of Torrejón de Ardoz the witness saw two individuals carrying large black rucksacks who spoke to each other in Arabic and then separated. The witness thought it strange that they sat in separate places. The declaration by the witness contains a description of these individuals and of the moment of the explosion in the train.

The declaration of another witness, Nafia Nouredine, was also read to the court. The witness declared in this statement about having carried out military training in Afghanistan and also admitted connections with the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (MICG). The declaration details how he travelled through several European countries and then later through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The witness states that he was leader of the GICM from 1998 to1999 but that he left the leadership because of problems he had with the activities of the organisation. At the request of the prosecution, a part of the declaration was read concerning the position of Hassan el Haski in the GICM, and another concerning a meeting with Osama bin Laden in August 2001 where Bin Laden gave permission for the GICM to use Al Qaeda training camps.

Another witness whose police declaration was read to the court is Mauricio Andres Soto Gómez. This person is accused of having sold a stolen Skoda car to those who carried out the bombings; the car was stolen in Benidorm.

The witness Santiago Delgado Bueno is a psychiatrist. He testified on the effects of the bombings on victims and the relationship between these events and the symptoms he witnessed in his patients.

Following these witnesses the trial was halted by appalling weather conditions in Madrid, a lightning strike prevented use of the electrical recording equipment.



Footnote: The trial has entered into often dense detail based on the investigation, we have reached the point where the similarities between plastic bags can help to make connections between the different sites involved.




READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - The explosives

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Hunger Strike Collapses

A hunger strike by several of those accused in the trial collapsed on the 21st May, after several of those participating had already given it up. The action was initiated by those accused of being the intellectual authors of the train bombings (Hassan el Haski, Youssef Belhadj y Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed), in protest at the way the trial was being conducted. Defence lawyers for the accused became alarmed as the strike spread to other defendants, they felt that it undermined any effort they might make to demonstrate that their clients were not part of an organised conspiracy. The chief judge, Javier Gómez Bermudez, also made it clear that he would not permit this action to interrupt or slow down the progress of the trial.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
El Mundo - Patatas con bacalao...

The Trial....Day 40, May 22nd

The Moroccan Islamic Combat Group

The witness Attila Turk was another witness declaring via videoconference link, this one from Versailles in France. The witness declared that he got to know Hassan el Haski in Paris in 2003. He declared that El Haski stayed at his home at one point, but that he cannot recall if this was before or after the Madrid bombings. He said that he could not recall having told the French police that El Haski was very nervous at the time of the attacks. The witness said that El Haski stayed 2 weeks and that he did not know where he went after that. He also testified on a meeting he attended where leadership of the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group was discussed, although he also stated that he did not know about this group.

Ahmed M'Saad was another witness declaring via the same link from Versailles. This witness was unsure when he first met El Haski, he believed it was in 2004. He said his mother and brother had stayed with El Haski at one point. He declared that El Haski was staying at his parents home until the 8th March 2004. The brother of this witness, Youssef M'Saad, also declared and said that he got to know El Haski in Syria when he accompanied his mother on a journey to that country. The witness confirmed that they stayed some days in El Haski's house. When El Haski was in France he stayed some time at the home of the witness, and then later with his parents. This was before the train bombings occurred. He said that at some point in April 2004, El Haski travelled to Belgium.


Police Experts

The police specialists 16365, 84114, 82663, 73929, 17855 and 82657 terminated their testimony on their reports concerning the telephones linked to the attacks by responding to questions from defence lawyers. .

Next appeared 2 expert witnesses in acoustic analysis, with numbers 78903 and 196, who testified on analysis of 3 video tapes connected to the bombings; one tape was left near the main mosque in Madrid shortly after the bombings and the other 2 were recovered from the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés. They declared that those who appeared in the tape found near the mosque were not the same as those appearing in the Leganés tapes; their voices were different.

Two other police specialists in DNA analysis, with numbers 21 and 176, testified on comparative DNA tests carried out on members of the family of Allekema Lamari. They said these tests coincided with a percentage of 99.9999999999991% with one of the genetic profiles found in Leganés. The analysis of the remains of the person identified as Allekema Lamari was carried out by police specialists 161 and 74131. They said they analysed a fragment of the person's head and compared it with police data.

Expert witnesses 31, 32 and 97 declared on an inspection made of the bodies found in the wreckage of the Leganés apartment. They declared that 2 bodies were identified genetically, 4 by other means, and 1 was unidentified. These experts also analysed date and olive stones found in Leganés and DNA extracted from these was later matched to that of Abdelmajid Bouchar. His DNA was also detected on a razor found at the house in Morata de Tajuña where the bombs are said to have been prepared. DNA from Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Rifaat Anouar, Abdennabi Kounjkaa, Allekema Lamari, Saed el Harrak, Jamal Ahmidam, Serhane ben Abdelmajid, Mohamed Belhadj, Hamid Ahmidam, Basel Ghalyoun, Otman el Ghanoui and Mohamed Bouharrat was also detected in tests on evidence or sites related to the bombings.

The final witness on this day was Mohamed Chettouf who testified on the translation he had made to Spanish of the recordings that the Italian police made of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed. He also declared on other translations he had made of material recovered from Leganés.



Footnote: Little of note on this day, except that the case against Hassan el Haski continues to look fragile, even if the prosecution does link him to the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group that does not demonstrate his leading role in organising the Madrid bombings. Meanwhile, the DNA evidence establishes direct connections between sites related to the bombings and several of the accused.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
La Vanguardia - Leganés DNA
El País - Leganés DNA
ABC - El Haski and the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group

The Trial....Day 39, May 21st

Another Witness Refuses to Declare

This day began with a refusal by a witness to declare. The witness, Bachir Goumid, was appearing via a videoconference connection to Paris. Instead, the declaration made by the witness to the French police was read to the court. This witness is currently facing charges of being associated to Al Qaeda and the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (MICG). When he made his declaration he was shown photographs of suspected Islamists and identified Hassan el Haski, who he declared he had known in Syria. In the declaration he said that he did not know El Haski was a leader of the MICG, and said that he put up El Haski at his home for a couple of days in March 2004 for reasons of hospitality. He offered no explanation of how El Haski managed to arrive at his home in Paris.

The police witness with number 79651 declared on cooperation obtained from other Police forces in Belgium, Italy, Morocco and France. The data they received from other forces concerned Hassan el Haski, Mohamed Afalah and the Moussaten family. The information they received on El Haski concerned his possible membership of the MIGC. On Youssef Belhadj, they believed he had lived in the Place Duchesse in Brussels, and that he arrived there on the 3rd March 2004. The witness testified on mobile telephone cards that were found by the Belgian police, including a Spanish card. From the Italian police they received the report on the electronic surveillance carried out on Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed.


The Financing of the Bombings

The expert witnesses from the national police, identified by numbers 87724, 84101 and 87492, declared on a report they had prepared concerning the financing of the train bombings. They declared that Jamal Ahmidam and his trafficking in drugs was the main source of funding. They also stated that the overall cost of the bombings was relatively low.


The Video Found in Leganés

The police specialists identified by numbers 13610 and 73929 declared on video tapes discovered in the wreckage of the Leganés apartment where 7 members of the group said to be responsible for the bombings blew themselves up in April 2004. They analysed one of these tapes, in which 3 individuals appeared. The central figure was accompanied by one person bearing a book, and another carrying a weapon, the witnesses declared that this was a symbolic arrangement. This central figure has been identified as Jamal Ahmidam.


The Connection to ETA

Two expert witnesses from the Tedax bomb disposal division, identified by numbers 58655 and 80212, declared on the use of mobile telephones by ETA compared to their usage in the Madrid bombings. The principal difference is that ETA has used telephones to detonate from a distance, whilst the Madrid bombers used them as timers on the bombs. The witnesses also testified that the models of telephone used by ETA and the Madrid bombers were also different.

In the afternoon session came an appearance by expert police witnesses 17855, 13617, 18028, 73929 and 18972. These witnesses were called to declare on 2 reports they had prepared concerning possible connections between ETA and Islamist groups. The witnesses testified that they had discovered no relationship between ETA and the Madrid bombings. Taking into account the numbers of ETA and Islamist prisoners in Spain, they had only detected 3 possible contacts of any interest at all; none of which was found to go beyond normal contacts between prisoners. They declared that ETA had normally stolen explosives in France (Titadine), or used explosives that they prepared themselves. They stated that ETA never bought explosives from common criminals. On an ETA explosives shipment that was intercepted shortly before the Madrid bombings, these witnesses noted nothing different about this event to separate it from other ETA actions; nor anything that connected it with the group preparing the Madrid bombings.

The witnesses denied any suggestion that they had been put under pressure concerning the conclusions of their reports, nor had these conclusions been changed. Under questioning from chief judge Gomez Bermudez, the witnesses stated that even if the explosive used in the bombs had been Titadine this would not necessarily mean that ETA was involved in the attacks, because of all the other evidence which did not support such a hypothesis. Not only did ETA not claim responsibility for the Madrid bombings, they explicitly denied their participation.


Experts on Telecommunications

Next declared the specialist witnesses on telecommunications, numbers S20-04-X-00 and S20-04-C-72. These witnesses declared on the issue of the activation of the telephone cards used in the bombs or by members of the group carrying out the attacks. One issue was being able to identify when a telephone card had been first used, the witnesses said that in the case of a prepaid card this happens with the first outward call. Even if the first call has not been made, the telephone number is registered as being in use. The information on card activation is stored for 72 hours after the event, this enabled the police to track the activation of the cards suspected to have been used in the bombs. On the cards that were known to have been active in the vicinity of the house in Morata de Tajuña (where it is alleged the bombs were prepared), there is no definitive way of knowing whether they were activated somewhere else outside of this 72 hours data storage limit.

Also declaring with relation to the telephones used in the bombs were the police specialists with numbers 16365, 84114, 82663, 73929, 17855 and 82657. They testified concerning a report on the tracking of the telephone card found in the only unexploded bomb recovered from the trains. They also declared on analysis of telephone usage by several of the accused.



Footnote: The headlines of the day naturally concern the never ending search by the representatives of the conspiracy theorists for any kind of connection to ETA. Those who testified on the issue today were involved in preparing the report which Agustín Díaz de Mera alleged was manipulated to remove evidence of such connections. Nobody at all has said anything to back up his allegations. Most of the evidence they testified on is simply common sense to anyone who looks coldly at the facts. Meanwhile, the refusal of witnesses to testify is making the case against the alleged intellectual authors of the bombings look a little fragile. Whilst there might be enough to convict them of association with terrorist organisations, their role as being the inspirers of the train bombings is not established. The evidence on telephones is important to the trial, although it probably goes over most peoples heads. For those with an interest in such things, the trial is turning into a master class on how people can be tracked through their usage of mobile telephones.




READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
El Mundo - ETA Connection
ABC - ETA Connection
ABC - Telephones
El País - ETA, Hunger Strike

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Trial....Day 38, May 17th

Establishing the Number of Victims

The day began with the appearance of a forensic expert, José Luis Miguel Pedrero. This witness testified that the officially registered number of wounded as a result of the train bombings is 1841, 17 more than the figure mentioned in the indictment.

The witness Elisabeth Helen Shirley Jeanneret declared on the situation of a Nigerian victim of the bombings called Kenneth. The witness works for an NGO and stated that Kenneth, who was present illegally in Spain, was caught in the explosion at the station of El Pozo. Following the explosion, Kenneth stayed at El Pozo attempting to help other victims of the explosion but left when the police arrived because of his illegal situation in the country. The witness said that he was scared after the explosion and that she had to convince him to go to a doctor. Because of this he is not officially registered as a victim of the bombings, the witness said that he remains in Spain.


The Neighbour in Leganés

Alberto Maeso lived in the apartment building in Leganés where 7 of the alleged perpetrators of the bombings blew themselves up on April 3rd 2004. He said that after 17:30 they heard sounds like firecrackers, and that a neighbour confirmed that shots had been fired. They could see the street was full of police, and could hear chanting. At 19:00 the police evacuated the building, they were not able to return to see the consequences of the explosion until 2 a.m. The witness described the continuing psychological effects of what had happened. For 18 months afterwards they had not been able to live their normal life. The building has been reconstructed but the witness said they continued to suffer problems connected to this reconstruction.


Relatives or Associates of the Accused

The witness Yahya Mawed Mohammad Rajed appeared via a videoconference connection with Spoleto in Italy. This is the person who is alleged to have been recruited to the Islamist cause by Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio) in Milan. Having set up the videoconference the results were disappointing, the witness declined to testify on the grounds that any declartation could be damaging to him. The witness is not covered by the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts but the chief judge warned that action could be attempted at international level over his refusal to declare. In the end the declaration to the police taken from this witness in Italy was read to the court. In this declaration the witness acknowledged knowing El Egipcio, but denied that they had discussed issues related to jihad or that he had been shown radical videos by the other man. He also denies ever having heard El Egipcio talk about the Madrid bombings.

Rachid Bendouda testified on those of the accused that he knew. He declared on having seen Jamal Zougam together in a bar with Abu Dahdah, Serhane ben Abdelmajid and Said Chedadi. The witness said they discussed business matters. He also said he had seen Allekema Lamari with Mohamed Afalah in the area of Lavapíes. On Jamal Ahmidam, he said he had known him many years ago when he dedicated himself to drug trafficking. He also admitted knowing Mouhannad Almallah Dabas and Said Berraj. He claimed that Rachid Aglif was not a friend of Jamal Ahmidam, although this is not what he had declared to the police.

Abdesalam Bouchar is the father of the accused, Abdelmajid Bouchar, and is not obliged to declare against his son. He said that his son used to live and work together with him, but that later he dedicated himself to running, and that he threw him out of their home at the beginning of 2004 because his son did not want to work. From April 2004, he said that he did not see his son until after his arrest. He claimed that his son was not radical in his religious beliefs.


The Identification of the Victims and Those Killed in Leganés

The joint appearance of the expert forensic witnesses Carmen Baladía Olmedo, Juan Miguel Monje Pérez, Miguel Angel Castillo and Francisco Pera Bajo concerned the identification of the victims of the bombings. Carmen Baladía was involved in setting up the emergency morgue at the IFEMA exhibition centre on the day of the bombings. She declared that the bodies were grouped according to the explosion site from which they came, and that they set up an area for autopsies. By the 17th March there were 187 fatal victims of the bombings, 3 of which had still not been positively identified. In the end they identified a total of 191 victims.

Juan Miguel Monje was present at Atocha station on the morning of March 11th, but said that the activities of the bomb disposal squad (Tedax) meant they could do nothing there. The witness said that the injuries observed on the victims were those likely to have been caused by an explosion, and that death would have been instantaneous for many of the victims. The witness also worked at the emergency morgue at IFEMA. The doctors Castillo and Pera testified on the autopsy of the policeman killed at Leganés

Next the witnesses Castillo and Pera remained together with doctors Prieto Carretero and Conejero Estévez. Together they declared on the forensic analysis of the bodies recovered from the Leganés explosion. They said this analysis was equivalent to an autopsy process because the aim was to identify the bodies and establish the cause of death. They declared that the number of identified victims was 7. The witnesses declared that they could be sure that the victims were alive at the time of the explosion from study of the burns and wounds on the bodies.

Finally the expert medical witnesses José Luis Miguel Pedrero, Sara Bosch Carretero and Plaoma Fuentes González declared on the after effects of the bombings for surviving victims.


Footnote: The evidence against El Egipcio remains confined to that of the tape recordings made by the Italian police given the refusal of one of his main contacts in Italy to declare. Apart from this, the most significant evidence of the day is perhaps that concerning Leganés. It has always been difficult for conspiracy theorists to suggest that Leganés was not a suicide, but the problem they have is that none of their theories survive if Leganés is not discredited. Hence their often bizarre attempts to suggest theories on how the police could have staged this event. These theories include suggestions that the bodies found following the explosion were already dead when it occurred. The evidence presented by the forensic experts does little to help this theory, as they demonstrated that there are ways of knowing whether someone was dead or alive at the time of the explosion.




READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Forensic witnesses
El País - Hunger strike and El Egipcio

Friday, May 18, 2007

Explosives Analysis....The End Of The Road

With the presentation to the tribunal of the final report on the analysis of the explosives used in the bombings, the conspiracy theorists are now playing their last card in their efforts to establish any kind of connection between the train bombings and ETA. This is a fairly lengthy post, although significantly shorter than the report itself. A certain level of detail is the only way to explain what the issues are here. The prosecution case is that the bombers used Goma 2 Eco dynamite that was stolen from the Mina Conchita in Asturias.

The tests carried out for the trial have been exhaustive, and the length of the resulting report is testimony to that. They were carried out in a transparent way and were even recorded on film to avoid any disputes over the methodology used. In addition to expert analysts from the police and Guardia Civil, the team carrying out the tests also included nominated experts from the defence and victims associations. The tests carried out have in the end confirmed something that has been said repeatedly since the bombings occurred; that it is not possible to identify the commercial brand of explosive used from the analysis of samples taken from the sites where bombs exploded. All that can be said definitively on these samples is that they contain generic components of dynamite. The conspiracy theorists have constantly rejected this idea and insisted that it meant that proper tests had not been carried out following the train attacks. Now, after months of analysis in which pro-conspiracy theory specialists have participated, the result is the same.

The noise that comes from those that promote the connection to ETA is now based entirely around the results of tests on one sample of fire extinguisher powder recovered from one of the trains where bombs exploded (at the station of El Pozo). All samples recovered from the explosion sites on the trains are of materials that may contain traces of explosive components, rather than being samples of the explosive itself. The tests on the powder have revealed the presence both of nitroglycerine and dinitrotoluene (DNT), neither of which are components of Goma 2 Eco. Followers of the conspiracy theories use this fact to suggest that the explosive used was probably Titadine, a past favourite of ETA although it is several years since they last managed to obtain any. Some, and only some, varieties of Titadine do contain these two components although they are of course present in other dynamites too. The problem for those who want to argue that Goma 2 Eco was not the explosive used in the bombs is that both of these substances have also been detected in several samples of Goma 2 Eco! The quantitative analysis of their presence in these samples of explosive reveals percentages which are far too low for either substance to be a considered a component of the explosive, leaving the conclusion that their presence must be due to some form of contamination.

The sample from El Pozo

Where such contamination might have occurred is an open question, there is no definitive explanation of how several samples of the Goma 2 Eco explosive contain substances that are not recognised components. The possible sources of contamination could come in the factory where the explosive was produced, in the mine from where it was stolen, in the preparation of the bombs, or even in the storage of the samples taken following the bombings. Although it is impossible to explain with the facts we have to hand, let’s take a brief look at each possibility

The factory is probably the least likely source of this contamination, although it cannot be ruled out. The conspiracy theorists deride the possibility by arguing that the company has quality controls which preclude the presence of foreign substances, and also by arguing that the master samples provided by the manufacturer do not contain traces of either DNT or nitroglycerine. This is what I call the "tin of paint" argument. Let’s say you buy a tin of blue paint to paint a wall at home and when you open the tin you find it contains red paint. The conspiracy theorist reacts to this situation by denying reality, if it says on the label that the paint is blue then it must be so; the wall will be painted red but our conspiracy theorist will still insist that in fact the colour of the wall is blue. I would return the paint to the shop where I bought it. Let’s hope that none of these people are ever put in charge of a factory producing food or drink, I can just see them assuring poisoned clients that it is impossible for their product to contain any contaminating substance because they have quality controls!

The Conchita mine in Asturias, where it is alleged the explosives and detonators used in the bombs were stolen, presents a more interesting case for consideration. Interesting above all because it raises the possibility of explaining the contamination through contact between the Goma 2 Eco and another dynamite which does contain both DNT and nitroglycerine; Goma 2 EC. This explosive is the predecessor product of Goma 2 Eco, and evidence has already been presented to the trial on how unused Goma 2 Eco was found scattered around the mine together with some quantity of Goma 2 EC. The mine had used both explosives and it seems perfectly possible that at least some of the stolen explosive could have been in contact with GOMA 2 EC or that both had been stored in the same places. Indeed, it can’t be completely ruled out that the stolen explosive contained some of the older brand, those who stole the explosive would not have been too fussy about what they found at the mine. No Goma 2 EC has been recovered from sites related to the bombings.

Another possible source of contamination has been the storage of all the samples during the last 3 years. Although at first sight this did not seem to me a very likely explanation of the contamination, the results contained in the report do throw up some interesting pointers. There are samples of explosive which come from the same source, but which do not all reveal the presence of the additional substances. Also, and this is probably why the conspiracy theorists are also so very keen to reject this explanation, the all important powder from the train at El Pozo that reveals the presence of nitroglycerine was tested previously in the aftermath of the bombings, and no DNT or nitroglycerine was found in these tests! These are factors which are not conclusive but which do open the possibility of contamination which occurred after the bombings.

We are left with the doubt over the source of contamination, but the verdict of the results cannot be ignored. There is also a wide variation in the proportion of substances detected, even in those samples which are from the same explosive. Some samples were obviously recovered in better condition than others; the dynamite from an unexploded bomb is likely to be in much better condition than the smaller pieces that were recovered from the wreckage of Leganés for example. The stolen explosive itself was not all from the same batch, and some of it was probably already in a more degraded condition. Couple this with the volatility of some of the components and the different storage conditions and you have a recipe for a wide range of results. Some of the samples were washed with water and acetone as part of a previous testing phase, something which the conspiracy theorists also seize on to back their case, the fire extinguisher powder does not seem to have passed through this process: No evidence has been provided to show why this process would remove nitroglycerine traces without also removing other soluble components of the explosives.

Despite the variation of the results, and all the evidence suggestive of contamination, one of the analysts involved - almost certainly the one representing the Asociación de Victimas del Terrorismo - insists in the report that the presence of nitroglycerine and DNT in the fire extinguisher powder makes the use of Titadine "highly probable". Why this should be the case when we know that the same substances have been found in some samples of Goma 2 Eco, or when we also know that they are also components of Goma 2 EC, is something that only this person can answer, he offers no further explanation for his conclusion.

One of the pro-conspiracy analysts even complains in his conclusions that there is too much emphasis in the samples on Goma 2 Eco. Well there is of course a fairly simple explanation for the overwhelming presence amongst the samples of this explosive. Traces or even significant quantities of it have been recovered from the only unexploded bomb recovered from the trains, the Kangoo van found near Alcalá railway station on the day of the bombings, the wreckage of the apartment that was blown up in Leganés, the device that was found on the high speed railway line connecting Madrid to Sevilla, and the house where the bombs are alleged to have been prepared. It needs to be emphasised that no other identifiable explosive has been found at any of the sites connected to the bombings. The Titadine that was used for comparative purposes only in the explosives tests came from the capture of ETA members transporting explosives towards Madrid in a van; an event which has no demonstrated connection to the train bombings. I won’t even go into the significant body of evidence that surrounds the supply of stolen Goma 2 Eco from the Mina Conchita in Asturias. So there we have it, a small sample of powder from one of the trains containing tiny traces of components that are found in Titadine, but not exclusively in Titadine, against all of the above evidence.

Far from revealing evidence of a cover up or even involvement of the government in the train bombings, the explosives analysis reveals very clearly the political intention that lies behind the conspiracy theories. You cannot look impartially at the results of the analysis and come away with the conclusion that Titadine must have been the explosive used. Anyone who wants to believe that media such as El Mundo are simply doing a straightforward task of journalistic investigation should take a look at the selective and distorted presentation of the issue by that newspaper. All facts inconvenient for the Titadine theory are ignored and swept aside, anything at all which supports it is treated as being beyond reproach. That’s why they cling to that small bag containing reddish powder as if it was the only significant evidence that had emerged in the entire case, it might not seem much but it’s all they have left. At least they have not confused it with another sample containing white powder that was recovered from Leganés. In this sample the tests also detected the presence of components of explosives, the substance being tested was....cocaine.


READ MORE IN SPANISH:
20 Minutos - Lo que debes saber sobre los explosivos del 11-M y nadie te ha contado...
El Mundo - You can download the reports (in Spanish) from here
El País - Qué estalló en los trenes... y los preservativos de los Tedax

The Trial....Day 37, May 16th

The day began with a reference by the chief judge Javier Gómez Bermudez to a hunger strike which has been begun by some of the accused – Abdelmajid Bouchar, Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, Hassan el Haski and Youssef Belhadj. The judge declared that the law would not permit the suspension of the trial as a result of this action, and that the hearing could continue even in the absence of the hunger strikers.

Continuing the declarations by expert witnesses, came a joint appearance by two specialists from the Guardia Civil, identified by the numbers Y-57188-A and E-80152-J. The court was shown a video made of an inspection carried out in the area of the Conchita mine in March 2005. This is the mine in Asturias where it is alleged the explosives used in the bombs were stolen. Also shown were diagrams and photographs of different parts of the mine and the places where explosives were stored, and images of explosives.

These witnesses also declared on the tracking of telephone records, and said that the first mobile telephone card they investigated was that of Carmen Toro; from that they got to the telephones used by Emilio Suárez Trashorras (4 in total). These cards registered traffic to telephones used by Jamal Ahmidam. There were also calls registered on telephones used by other members of the group from Asturias charged with supplying the explosives. Overall the connection between those in Asturias and those accused of committing the bombings was established via Abdennabi Kounjaa, Rachid Oulad Akcha and Jamal Ahmidam. There was a also a record of a call from Serhane ben Abdelmajid to Trashorras. On the journeys made by Trashorras to Madrid, they managed to find some evidence because of a credit card he had used.

The witnesses declared that Trashorras used only prepaid telephones and cabins to get in contact with Jamal Ahmidam, but that the mobile telephone of Carmen Toro was used to call Ahmidam. Calls have been registered from a cabin just 50 metres from the home of Toro and Trashorras to Jamal Ahmidam. The witnesses said that Rachid Aglif and Rafa Zouhier acted as intermediaries. They detected telephone traffic between Ahmidam (who used 3 different phones) and Zouhier, and that the contacts went up to the 18th March 2004.

The afternoon session began with 3 police ballistics experts, identified by their police numbers 18522, 18851 and 18452. They declared on the Sterling submachine guns found following the explosion at the apartment in Leganés. They said one was fit to be used once cleaned, but that the other had a fracture caused by the explosion. They said that the weapons were identifiable by serial numbers.

Next to declare were 3 police experts on document analysis, numbers 16579, 74964, and 77639. They testified on documents alleged to have been written by Serhane ben Abdelmajid, Mohamed Bouharrat and Rachid Oulad Akcha. They also declared concerning falsified identity documentation recovered from the wreckage of the Leganés apartment. They stated that false passports found were authentic documents with replaced photographs.

The next 3 police specialists, numbers 85513, 67147 and 19245 testified on fingerprint evidence. They said they found prints of Mohamed Bouharrat on a book recovered from Leganés, as well as other prints belonging to Jamal Ahmidam and Abdennabi Kounjaa. All of the prints were recovered from printed matter, which was protected a bit from the explosion.

The testimony was then continued by witness 19245 together with another specialist 18479. They declared on evidence recovered from the Kangoo van found in Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings. They said that the FBI gave them an identification of a print belonging to a US citizen, but that they did not agree with this identification. From other prints found they made a positive identification of Daoud Ouhnane.

The witnesses said that prints for Abdelmajid Bouchar were discovered in Leganés and in the house at Morata de Tajuña said to have been used for preparing the bombs. A print from Saed el Harrak was also discovered in the Kangoo van.



Footnote: If the constant switching between expert witnesses seems strange, with some continuing and others going, it is because they are testifying on the reports that they have been involved in preparing. So when one report is finished with, the witnesses change.




READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
El Mundo - Telephone Tracking
ABC - Telephone Tracking

The Trial....Day 36, May 10th

Tracking The Dynamite Used in the Bombs

This day in the trial saw a single appearance by a specialist from the Guardia Civil, identified by number Y-57188-A. This witness is a sergeant who was involved in the investigation into the source of the explosives used in the train bombs, and prepared a report on the issue. He testified that the explosive used was Goma 2 Eco manufactured by the company Unión Española de Explosivos based in Páramo de Masa. The judgement was based on examination of actual explosives and on wrappers recovered from the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés where 7 suspected members of the group who carried out the bombings blew themselves up.

The investigators tracked the identified batches of explosives from the factory to their destination. From the identification numbers found they were able to identify shipments delivered to the Conchita mine in Asturias in January and February 2004. The investigators also tracked shipments of detonators that matched those found at scenes associated with the train bombings. The shipments of Goma 2 Eco that they tracked were not delivered exclusively to the Conchita mine, but the detonators of the type recovered were only delivered to this mine. It was the only mine in Spain using these detonators. From the wrappings recovered from Leganés they were able to estimate that they had held approximately 90 kilos of explosives.

The witness stated that Conchita mine was out of the way and not somewhere where anyone would normally pass. He also stated that it was an area where it would not be difficult to hide significant quantities of explosive. He declared that the mine was operating a double accounting system, the real consumption was not revealed to inspectors from the Guardia Civil.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC
El Mundo

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Trial....Day 35, May 9th

The day began with the appearance of two national police experts, identified by numbers 17855 and 13610. They were the authors of reports on the analysis of a computer recovered from the wreckage of the apartment in Leganés where 7 of those held responsible for the train bombings blew themselves up on the 3rd April 2004. These 2 witnesses also participated in the preparation of reports on Islam and on possible links between Islamists and the Basque group ETA. They declared that the latter report concluded that no such links existed, and that the contacts which had taken place between prisoners were a normal occurrence. Questioned on the allegation that an Islamist prisoner, Abdelkrim Bensmail, was found in possession of a formula for an explosive mixture used by ETA, the witnesses testified that the formula discovered was not the same as that normally employed by ETA.

The witnesses declared that the information on Islamist groups recovered from Leganés was all about groups that operate within the orbit of Al-Qaeda. The Takfir sect and the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group belong to the Salafist current which is considered to be part of Al Qaeda in North Africa.They had also worked on a report on the mobile telephones used in the bombs which concluded that there could have been more than one provider of telephones. These witnesses also testified on the tracking of calls made by Jamal Ahmidam on the 28th and 29th February 2004, when he travelled from Madrid to Avilés in Asturias. Investigation of the calls revealed that some were made close to the Conchita mine from where it is alleged the explosives were stolen. During these 2 days Ahmidam had conversations by telephone with Emilio Suárez Trashorras, Otman el Ghanoui, Mohamed Oulad Akcha and Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil.

Next the witness 13610 declared together with another specialist, identified by number 84114. The 2 experts were questioned concerning a report on the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, in whose name a claim of responsibility was made for the bombings. The witnesses said that intelligence information pointed to this organisation being an offshoot of Al Qaeda. They declared that the London bombings were also claimed in the name of this organisation. They also investigated the use of an Internet site called Global Islamic Media, they had been unable to access the site directly, but from material recovered they found items taken from it. These specialists were also questioned on a report they prepared on the Renault Kangoo van found in Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings, the Leganés apartment, and other properties related to the bombings. Amongst other things, this report referred to documentation recovered in Leganés. The witnesses were not involved in the investigation, their task was to compile information that the investigation uncovered.

Witness 84114 was then joined by another police specialist with number 82663 to declare on a report they prepared on documentation recovered in Leganés. They said that almost all of the documentation found was in Arabic and that thousands of documents had to be checked from the computer and memory sticks. They declared that a fax sent to the newspaper ABC claiming responsibility for the attacks had been written by Serhane ben Abdelmajid. They also testified on a document divided into 19 separate files which contained information on military training and the use of explosives. On weapons discovered in the wreckage of the apartment, they said that a pistol had belonged to a former member of the Guardia Civil, and that the origin of the Sterling submachine guns found was not clear. They also testified on a document discovered on a laptop computer belonging to Jamal Ahmidam, the document had chapters on guerilla warfare, the use of weapons and communications security.



Footnote: The existence of any kind of contact between Islamists and ETA is something the conspiracy theorists still attempt to place in the trial, yet no witness has provided any significant evidence of such contacts in the entire course of the trial. One of the lawyers representing the pro-conspiracy theory victims associations was slapped down very hard by the chief judge Gomez Bermudez in this session after he tried to insist on this issue. Again he was reminded that the role of these associations in the trial is to support their written accusation, despite this they never lose an opportunity to abuse their position and introduce conspiracy theory material whenever they can. The question of the affiliations of the perpetrators is more interesting, as we enter into the question of how formal the links are between Al Qaeda and groups which are said to be under its influence.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
El País - ETA Connections
ABC - Jamal Ahmidam telephone tracking

The Trial....Day 34, May 8th

The Surveillance of El Egipcio

The day began with the resumed declaration by witness 32372 from the Italian police anti-terrorist division (the DIGOS). This witness continued to testify on the surveillance in Italy of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (“El Egipcio”). In reply to questions from defence lawyers, the witness said that the name of Larbi ben Sellam came up during the investigation as someone who had the confidence of El Egipcio. However, the only names of the accused that appear in the recordings made of telephone conversations are those of Serhane ben Abdelmajid and Fouad el Morabit.

This witness was in charge of the electronic surveillance of El Egipcio, but did not listen to every conversation recorded. He was present during the transcription of some of the most important recordings, and signed these documents. The analysis of the contents of El Egipcio’s computer was also carried out by the DIGOS, and the witness was involved in approval of this process. He declared that in May 2004 the accused downloaded images from Internet of suitcases containing explosives and connected to a mobile telephone.


The Guardia Civil and Explosives Trafficking in Asturias

A witness from the weapons inspection service of the Guardia Civil, identified by the number 660, testified on the control of explosives consumption. The witness said that from 2002 there were obligations on the mine security guards to control the use of explosives and to prevent removal of unused supplies. The witness said that all unused explosive should be returned to stores. He testified that the Guardia Civil did not have the resources to closely monitor this situation, and that they were unaware on any significant disappearance of explosives.

Another witness from the Guardia Civil in Asturias, with witness number 662, declared that in 2003 the division in Oviedo was aware of attempts by Emilio Suárez Trashorras and Antonio Toro to traffic in explosives. He remembered a meeting where the possibility was mentioned that ETA might be interested in these explosives. The witness was instructed to investigate the issue and was aware that a sample of explosive had been supplied by an unidentified source (said to be Rafa Zouhier).

The witness from the Guardia Civil in Asturias, identified by number C-21968-A, was involved in mine inspections of the company that owns the Mina Conchita, Caolines de Merillés. He declared that they detected no problems in control of explosives in 2003 and that the inspections were carried out on an annual basis. During these inspections they would check the storage of explosives and the documentation on consumption. Since the train bombings the measures to control explosives have been tightened considerably. The witness said that they detected errors in 2004, but after the bombings occurred. Even in 2004 they noted no signs of the stores having been forced. The witness said it was impossible for them to exercise complete control over the explosives consumption in the mine.

Another witness from the Guardia Civil, a Lieutenant Colonel identified with number 621, made a report on an inspection of Mina Conchita in July 2003 in which no items of importance were recorded. The witness said he had seen an information report concerning the possible trafficking of explosives by Trashorras and Toro. After a meeting with prosecutors in Avilés he was informed that there were no results on the issue. Nobody ordered further investigations on Toro and Trashorras, and Rafa Zouhier was not put under investigation.

The next Guardia Civil witness from Asturias, identified as Q-972838-H, holds the rank of General and was in charge of the Guardia Civil for all of Asturias at the time of the bombings. He declared that he was informed in February 2003 about the police informer José Ignacio Fernández Díaz (known as “Nayo” ) and his information on possible explosives trafficking. The witness said that it was agreed with other divisions that the investigation would be led by the Guardia Civil from Oviedo. Later he received a report on the possibility of Trashorras and Toro being in possession of 150 kilos of explosive. When the investigation turned up nothing concrete concerning explosives, it became focused on drug trafficking.

The next witness from the Guardia Civil, identified as Q-077185-Q, was in charge of the Guardia Civil in the town of Gijón. He declared that Nayo was not their informant; his relationship was with the Guardia Civil in Gijón. This witness was removed from his post as a result of a recording between one of his agents and another informer, Lavandera, that referred to explosives trafficking in 2001.

The declarations from Guardia Civil members in Asturias continued with witness T-53739-V. This witness, general secretary of an association representing members of the Guardia Civil, was involved in the preparation of 2 reports on the lack of resources dedicated to controlling arms and explosives trafficking in Asturias. He testified on a change of regulations which meant less control by the Guardia Civil of explosives usage in mines. He said that the agents inspecting the mines would not enter the mine galleries, as they were not equipped for this.

The witness I-57655-Z was a lieutenant in the judicial police in Gijón. He said he was informed by members of the Guardia Civil from Oviedo that they had received information about explosives trafficking. The witness attended an interview with the informer Lavandera but that no new information resulted from this and no report was prepared. A different conversation on another occasion was recorded but the witness never heard this tape.


Realtives and Contacts of the Accused

Samir Suleyman rented a room, together with his brother, in the property in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro where several of the accused lived. The witness said that he lived there between August and October of 2003, and that amongst others living in the property were Fouad el Morabit and Basel Ghalyoun. He said that he and his brother lived independently in the property and had little contact with other residents. He did declare that he saw Serhane ben Abdelmajid at the property.

Allal Moussaten is the father of Brahim and Mohamed Moussaten. Another of the accused, Youssef Belhadj, is the brother of his wife. This witness testified that in the period before the train bombings Belhadj spent 15-30 days in Spain, but that he then returned to Belgium. He declared that Brahim was “normal”, not especially religious and not a follower of Takfir doctrine. They never talked together about jihad or about Brahim going to fight in Iraq. He also testified that Mohamed was not strongly religious. He said that his sons knew Mohamed Afalah, and that he knew Afalah’s father well. According to the witness, Youssef belhadj also knew Afalah. The witness said that he was in a mosque on the day of the Leganés explosion and met Afalah’s father who was preparing the wedding of another son. Mohamed Afalah also arrived at one point. The witness was detained by the police during several days, and questioned about the bombings. He said the police hit and threatened him, asking him why he had come to this country to kill people.



Footnote: Much of the day has been dominated by further evidence of the failure of the Guardia Civil in Asturias to act on information about explosives trafficking in the region in the years preceding the bombings. Further confirmation also of the lax controls in the mines which made it so easy for such trafficking to take place. The trial is now reaching the end of witness appearances in preparation for moving onto the stage of examining the material evidence.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Guardia Civil and mine inspections
ABC - Guardia Civil and trafficking

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Trial....Day 33, May 7th

The Bombings According to Kamal Ahbar

The day began with the resumption of the declaration begun on day 32 by Kamal Ahbar, following the dramatic claims he made in that session about the authorship of the attacks. Once again he testified on time he spent with Mohamed Afalah in Turkey after the bombings. The witness said they travelled on false passports, but that he did not know who provided these. He also claimed that Daoud Ouhnane left Spain on May 20th 2004, and that he died around the 7th or 8th June. He stated that the 7 who died in Leganés, together with Afalah, Said Berraj and Ouhnane were those who carried out the preparation of the attacks.

Another claim made by Ahbar was that the group carrying out the bombings were assisted by Emilio Suárez Trashorras and Antonio Toro in the purchase of weapons from a member of the Guardia Civil. The witness said that he was only in contact once with Safwan Sabagh, who he accused in the previous session of being an organiser of the attacks. He said that the attacks were financed by part of the proceeds from a theft of hashish, the share that belonged to Jamal Ahmidam and Mohamed Oulad Akcha. Also concerning Amidam, he stated that the Renault Kangoo van used on the day of the attacks was also used to go to Asturias to collect the explosives, although two vehicles were used for this. Ahbar said that the bombs were prepared at the house rented by Jamal Ahmidam in Morata de Tajuña. He also said that Afalah was present in Leganés on the day of the explosion, but that he left the apartment to send messages claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Questioned on whether he had been in contact with any of the accused in the prison of Alcalá Meco, the witness said he had no such contacts in the past week, but there were some before. He denied that he had prepared his declaration with anyone, including those accused in the trial. A further claim that he made was that the original objective of the bombers was going to be the academy of the Guardia Civil in Jaén, he did not know who gave instructions to change the plan. On another of the accused, Basel Ghalyoun, the witness said that he had met him in prison but that he was told by Daoud, Afalah and Berraj that Ghalyoun was not involved.


El Egipcio and the Italian Police

A witness identified by the number 4833 is a member of the Italian special operations police, known as the DIGOS. This witness was based in Milan and from the end of March 2004 took part in an investigation concerning Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio). The Italian police had received information from their Spanish counterparts concerning this person and mobile telephone cards. They tracked the card and were able to find Ahmed as a result of this, he was working as a painter in Milan. The police then obtained judicial authorisation to tap the telephones being used by the accused, and to install microphones in his home. They also set up camera surveillance of his home address. He said that Ahmed was in contact with people from Milan, with an Egyption known as Yahia, with a Moroccan citizen living in Belgium (Mohamed Chabarou), and with Mohamed, the brother of Yahia. The witness said that there were regular conversations with Yahia and that the latter went to live at the home of El Egipcio. He stated that many of these conversations involved El Egipcio teaching Yahia about radical Islamist ideas. El Egipcio also showed him videos of Islamist fighters.

The police investigation also revealed that El Egipcio visited radical Islamist web sites on the Internet, and that after his arrest many files were found on the computer containing declarations from radical leaders or suicide activists. The witness said El Egipcio also visited sites containing instructions on bomb making and activation. He also declared that El Egipcio made references to the Madrid bombings in the conversations that were recorded; in one conversation with Yahia which lasted several hours, El Egipcio talked about being one of those behind the bombings saying it was his project and that those who died in Leganés were friends of his. By checking telephone traffic, the police in Italy concluded that El Egipcio first arrived in the country at the end of 2003, and that he returned again at the beginning of February 2004. Between the 8th and 12th March 2004 no traffic of any kind was recorded for his Italian or Spanish phone cards. On the 17th April 2004 El Egipcio attempted to call Fouad el Morabit, and there were also references to El Morabit in the calls between Chabarou and El Egipcio.

A second witness from the DIGOS, identified by number 32372, also declared concerning El Egipcio. He stated that they received information that a card belonging to an Italian mobile telephone was amongst those identified as having been in contact with Fouad el Morabit. The witness said that El Egipcio was first located in Milan on the 15th April 2004. The witness said he worked with the translators who listened to the recordings made of El Egipcio's conversations, and that he realised that this was a potentially dangerous man. He also confirmed what the other witness had told the court about the reference made by El Egipcio to the Madrid bombings in the conversations that were recorded.


Footnote: The story of the bombings as told by Kamal Ahbar came under much closer inspection in this session, there is a strong suspicion that his version of events has been agreed together with some of the accused; the only living people who he accuses of involvement are those from the side of the explosives provision. He got caught by various contradictions in his account during this session. His testimony also seems to have caused tensions amomgst the accused, and Rafa Zouhier was removed temporarily from the glass enclosure where all the accused normally sit. Meanwhile, the evidence from the Italian police is crucial to the case against El Egipcio as being one of those behind the bombings; without this he hardly appears in the trial.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Kamal Ahbar
ABC - Italian Police
El País - Kamal Ahbar and Italian Police




Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Trial....Day 32, May 4th

A Witness Who Names the Bombers

Kamal Ahbar is currently awaiting trial for another case (named Operación Sello), and was advised by the chief judge of his right not to incriminate himself. The witness declared that Larbi ben Sellam lived with him for several months, and that he knew Daoud Ouhnane. He also declared that he was in Turkey with Mohamed Afalah and was detained by the Turkish authorities; although he was later released. He said the last time he saw Afalah was in Syria in February 2005, after which Ahbar returned to Syria. The witness also declared on the relationship between Afalah and Mohamed Belhadj in Holland; he said that both had plenty of money and were able to obtain false documentation. The witness had known Afalah since childhood in Morocco. He said that either at the end of April 2004, or the beginning of May, Said Berraj and Afalah went to Belgium on their way to Iraq.

Ahbar said that Jamal Ahmidam was looking for weapons and got in contact with Antonio Toro and Rafa Zouhier, who bought 3 Kalashnikovs together with Mohamed Oulad Akcha and Daoud Ouhnane. The witness stated that Afalah, Berraj and Ouhnane did not have any relationship with Youssef Belhadj or Hassan el Haski. They were in contact with a man called Sabagh from Valencia, and someone else from a mosque in Madrid, as well as Allekema Lamari. Ahbar then claimed that the train bombings were prepared in Valencia, but that they had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The telephones were supplied by the iman from the mosque in Madrid, Abu Jaber. He said that Larbi ben Sellam did not offer any assistance to Afalah.

According to this witness, the explosives were financed by a robbery of 200 kilos of hashish. Ahmidam, Ouhnane and Akcha travelled to Asturias the week before the attacks to obtain the explosives; the witness said he was told about this by Afalah and Ouhnane. He declared that those who placed the bombs were the 7 who died in the explosion in Leganés, together with Ouhnane and Afalah. He also said that he did not know Jamal Zougam, and that he had been told Zougam was not involved, Basel Ghalyoun was also not part of the group.


Contacts of the Accused

Mohammad Suleyman rented a room in the property in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro, where some of the accused also lived. He lived there for several months in 2003. The witness was working at night and said he did not have much relationship with the others living at the property. The witness declared that he did not see any meetings where pro-Islamist videos were shown, and said that he would have been aware if many people had arrived for a meeting. He did declare that he knew Serhane ben Abdelmajid (“El Tunecino”), and testified that Basel Ghalyoun, Mouhannad Almallah Dabas, and Fouad el Morabit were all friends of El Tunecino.

Abdul Karim Rahim Awleya testified concerning Mouhannad Almallah Dabas. He said that Almallah Dabas had family problems and that in the mosque they attended the iman was trying to deal with this. The witness said he also knew El Tunecino.


The Arrest of Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil

The police witness with number 13404 was a brigade chief in the Spanish enclave of in 2004, and received orders from Madrid to arrest Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil. This witness said they managed to locate him via his brother. He participated in a search of the arrested mans home, and all personal effects removed from the property were sent to Madrid. Police witness 65094 was also involved in the detention of El Akil, and participated in his transfer to Madrid. He said the search of El Akil’s home involved the removal of documents and a computer which filled 7 bags in total. El Akil was taken to Madrid by helicopter. A third police witness involved in the arrest, number 53445, also stated that they located El Akil through his brother.


Footnote:
The evidence from Kamal Ahbar could potentially be sensational in that he points the finger directly at named individuals as being responsible for the bombings. However, if any of what he says is true then the only guilty ones amongst the accused are those said to have supplied the explosives, Ahbar has drawn a line which puts those who are dead or missing one one side, and those who are alive but facing charges on the other. The iman who he named as being amongst the organisers is the police informer known as "Cartagena", a favourite of the conspiracy theorists. Ahbar's declaration continues in the next session. The rest of the witnesses from today's session add extra information but shed little light on events, it seems clear that we are reaching the end of the witness appearances.



READ MORE IN SPANISH:
Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Kamal Ahbar