Wednesday, May 16, 2007

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.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Guardia Civil and mine inspections
ABC - Guardia Civil and trafficking

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