Tuesday, May 22, 2007

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.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
El Mundo - ETA Connection
ABC - ETA Connection
ABC - Telephones
El País - ETA, Hunger Strike

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