Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Trial....Day 31, May 3rd

This day in the trial saw the beginning of appearances by those witnesses called by the defence. Although at times it has seemed unlikely that all witnesses could be called in the time frame estimated for the trial, it now appears that either the parties to the accusation or lawyers for the defence have decided not to call many of those initially cited for appearance.

The Vallecas Bomb

The national police witness, identified by number 17054, belonged to the provincial forensic branch at the time of the bombings. The witness presented himself for duty during the night of the 11th March at the emergency morgue set up at the IFEMA exhibition centre, as part of the effort to identify the victims. This witness was involved in work at the stations of El Pozo and Atocha to try and recover and photograph human remains from the sites of the explosions. At some point during the night he was telephoned by a superior officer who directed him to go to the Azorin Park, where the only remaining unexploded bomb was deactivated. He declared that he informed a senior officer there that it was not possible to take a photograph of the bomb because of the risk of provoking an explosion. The witness gave his camera to a member of the bomb disposal squad (Tedax) to take some photographs, and remained at a safe distance. After the bomb had been deactivated, the witness saw a dark blue bag, but he was not permitted to go closer to take photographs. He was ordered to give the camera film to the bomb disposal team. The witness declared in court that they never received the negatives of the film. Concerning the explosion in Leganés the witness was ordered to go there on the night of the 3rd April, but he said that when he arrived there was very little left for him to do.

The police superintendent with identification number 14296 was in charge of the police station of Puente de Vallecas at the time of the bombings. He declared that he left home at around 8 a.m. on the morning of 11th March, and that when his driver told him about the bombings he headed directly to the station of El Pozo; arriving at around 8:30. Later he was back at the police station when vans arrived carrying bags full of personal effects from El Pozo. He received orders from judge Juan del Olmo to carry out an inventory of these bags, a process which was interrupted by the discovery of the unexploded bomb contained in one of the bags being inspected. The witness was informed at home concerning this discovery at approximately 2:30 a.m. He headed directly for Azorín Park although there were already more senior officials present when he arrived so his role was limited.

The Discovery of the Leganés Apartment

The police witness with number 14620 testified that on the 3rd April 2004 he was temporarily stationed in Madrid because of his role in another trial involving Islamists. A few days earlier he had been asked to revise details of the Madrid bombings investigation because of his experience in the field. A telephone number caught his attention becaus it was close to one he had dealt with in the other case, and he sought authorization to track the calls made with this number. One of the calls related to this card involved a man who said he had rented an apartment to some "Arabs", and they checked the rental agreement which was in the name of Mohamed Belhadj. He called his senior officer with the news that they may have found the apartment used by the train bombers; they had begun to use the apartment 3 days before the bombings. The same officer participated in the discovery of the house in Morata de Tajuña said to have been used for preparing the bombs. The cards used in the telephones of the bombs were activated in the area of this house. This same witness knew of Jamal Zougam because of contacts with Abu Dahdah, the object of the other case being investigated; he had also been involved in investigation of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed ("El Egipcio") between February 2002 and the same month in 2003. When El Egipcio left Spain and went to France they requested that the French authorities continued to investigate his activities; the French did so for 3 months but then stopped because there were no signs of him being involved in anything suspicious.

Police witness 12370 was the chief of the UCIE (the Central Unit for External Information) in March 2004. This witness said that he was informed at approximately 3 p.m. on the 3rd April about the discovery of the apartment in Leganés, although he did not go to the area. He was informed about the information passed on by the Moroccan and Tunisian intelligence services about calls being made to family members of those besieged inside the apartment. His division had taken charge of the investigation on the 13th March following the discovery of the shop where the cards used in the bombs had been sold. The witness said that the department was already familiar with Jamal Zougam because of a previous investigation linking him to Islamist activities, and they authorised his arrest on the 13th March.

Jamal Zougam

Aicha Achab is the mother of Jamal Zougam. She declared that her son slept at home on the night before the bombings, and that the next morning she got up at around 9 a.m. to prepare breakfast. She declared that Jamal got up later and remained in the house until 11 a.m. when he left to go to work. She said her son had never been a follower of any violent Islamist movement.

Mohamed el Bakkali Elklai declared that he knew Jamal Zougam from a gymnasium in the area of Plaza Eliptica in Madrid. He said that Zougam usually went there between 22-23:00. Questioned on a telephone call made with Zougam's telephone, he said it was to someone called Mohamed Afalah and concerned an estimate for some work.

The Explosives and the Asturian Connection

A protected witness from the CNI, the Spanish national intelligence agency, testified on a journey he made to Asturias in the company of other police officers following the bombings. The witness said the group was following the trail of the detonators that had been found and that they visited the company Caolines de Merilles because this company was believed to have been the recipient of these detonators. They also requested a list of workers from the company and a report on the consumption of explosives in their mines. On the 17th March 2004 the team went to the town of Avilés where the police controller of Emilio Suárez Trashorras, Manuel Garcia, called Trashorras to the police station. The witness said that everything Trashorras told them was reported to Madrid. He said that Trashorras did not directly name Jamal Ahmidam, but that he did refer to him using the nickname "Mowgli". Carmen Toro, the former wife of Trashorras, gave them information useful for locating the house in Morata de Tajuña rented by Ahmidam. During their stay in Asturias, the team from Madrid was not given any information by local police concerning explosives trafficking in the region. The witness said that they had received information concerning telephone traffic connected to the telephone of Carmen Toro. Trashorras told them about the Moroccans in Madrid that he had been dealing with, and that they were hashish dealers.

The witness from the Guardia Civil with police number C21909-U was in charge of the Central Operations Unit and testified concerning the information they received on the attempts to sell stolen explosives in Asturias. He declared that the sample provided to the Guardia Civil by their informant Rafa Zouhier was of very poor quality. He declared that they never received information from Zouhier about the possible involvement of Arab or North African citizens, and that his section did not investigate issues related to Islamist terrorism. He also said that he was never aware of the meetings that Zouhier is said to have attended concerning the sale of the explosives to the bombers.

Also appearing on this day was the operations chief of the Guardia Civil, identified as witness X73066-O. The witness was based in Asturias in early 2003, and was asked to prepare a report on the information concerning possible explosives trafficking. The witness said that they did not give credit to the notion that Antonio Toro was trying to do a deal with ETA involving stolen explosives; because ETA had never relied on criminals to supply explosives. The witness said that he was ordered to destroy a note containing details of the investigation the day before officers involved were supposed to testify before the parliamentary commission of investigation into the train bombings. Guardia Civil witness F61350-J was the general in charge of the information division. This witness denied ever having received a report on the trafficking of explosives by Antonio Toro and Emilio Suárez Trashorras, or on attempts to sell these explosives to ETA.

The Witness Who Bought A Telephone for her Grandson

Dolores Motos Salazar was called upon by the police to identify a body in the aftermath of the bombings. The witness said that the police asked her if she was involved in the bombings, and that they asked her many questions in the police station. Some of these questions concerned a telephone she had bought in Madrid, which because it was not working properly, she had exchanged in the shop for another one. The witness declared that she knows none of the accused in the trial.

Contacts or Relatives of the Accused

The witness Fernado Huarte testified that he visited the prisoner Abdelkrim Bensmail in the prison to Villabona to deliver some magazines on behalf of a Palestinian solidarity organisation. He declared that he was unaware that Bensmail belonged to the Armed Islamic Group, or that he was associated with Allekema Lamari; he visited the prisoner 3 times. Another witness, Rabia Gaya, testified concerning Fernando Huarte, saying that he knew him because both of them are members of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). He did not know that Huarte had visited Abdelkrim Bensmail. Vicente Ibor Asensi was the lawyer for Allekema Lamari, he declared that the last time he saw him was after Lamari left prison.

Ray Tatary is iman of the mosque in the district of Estrecho. He testified that Basel Ghalyoun attended this mosque, but he was not aware of Jamal Zougam doing the same. He told the court that he knew Serhane ben Abdelmajid although he was not a regular attendee at this mosque. The witness also said the name of Fouad el Morabit was familiar, and that he knew El Egipcio and the brothers Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah Dabas.

The witness Daylena Cuayo Mata was a friend of Rafa Zouhier and testified that she had know him since 2003. She could not confirm details of Zouhier travelling to Asturias or whether he had an accident which is alleged to have happened when he experimented with a detonator.She said that she was aware Zouhier had contacts with the police, but that she never attended any of these meetings.

Abdelilah Ahmidam is the brother of Jamal Ahmidam, El Chino. He also admitted to knowing Hamid Ahmidam and Otman el Ghanoui. The witness testified on the imprisonment of Jamal in Morocco, and on his brother's involvement in drugs trafficking. He said that on his return from Morocco, Jamal was more radical and they no longer got on well.

The most significant part of the day has been the confirmation of how the police tracked down the apartment in Leganés. Meanwhile the appearance of the witness from the CNI confirms much of what has already been presented to the court on the investigation of the origen of the explosives. Finally, we have been treated yet again to evidence that the Guardia Civil did not act strongly enough on information that they had on possible explosives trafficking. Not just that, but that they then tried to cover up the decision not to pursue a lead which could have at least prevented the easy supply of the explosives to the bombers.


ABC - Forensic witness and unexploded bomb
ABC - UCIE Chief
ABC - Hernando
El País - Hernando
ABC - CNI Agent
El País - CNI Agent
Datadiar - Daily Summary

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