Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Trial....Day 48, June 13th

The session began with the closing statement by the Asociacion de Victimas del Terrorismo (AVT). The AVT's lawyer cast doubt on the evidence against Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, pointing out the differences between translations of the recordings of his conversations. He said that the AVT's conclusion was that this person had knowledge of what was being planned but that does not mean he was one of the instigators of the bombings.

The lawyer then turned to criticisms of the AVT for the way they had acted in the trial, and denied that this association had acted in favour of the accused or that it had requested that they be freed. The AVT had only wanted to discover all of the truth about what had happened, and was not happy with the way the investigation had been conducted. He claimed that they had to wait 3 years to get a complete analysis on the explosives used in the bombings, and that it was not possible that the bomb disposal squad would have been unable to identify the components of the explosives used. The custody of the samples preserved from the trains had not been adequate.

The AVT's representative then talked of the existence of a "hand that rocked the cradle". He accepted that the explosive had been supplied in the way described by the prosecution, but maintained that it was not possible to insist that Goma 2 Eco had been the dynamite used on the trains. He rejected the theory that the samples tested had been contaminated. He insisted that the investigation needed to continue and that the AVT was not satisfied with the process as carried out. The AVT did not believe that the security forces were behind the attacks, but there were doubts concerning the relationship between these forces and the police informers involved in the bombings.

Next came the statement on behalf of Pilar Manjon, mother of one of the victims. Her lawyer criticised the need to prepare reports on possible involvement of ETA in the bombings, and said that the only person who had not told the truth on this issue in the trial was Agustin Díaz de Mera who was responsible for a shameful spectacle. On the explosives issue, only one of the samples from the trains showed traces of nitroglycerine, and the person carrying out this test had no experience in explosives analysis. On those from Asturias accused of supplying the explosives, the lawyer said that they formed an illegal association with the intention of committing offences. Already in 2001 it was possible to identify Antonio Toro and Emilio Suárez Trashorras as being involved in drug and explosives trafficking. Carmen Toro was also involved as part of the leadership of this group; Javier González Díaz acted as the lieutenant of Trashorras. The point of connection between the Asturian group and the Islamist cell was Rafa Zouhier, a violent and dangerous person who does not like to be called an informer, but whose defence depends primarily on being one. The role of Javier González in explosives trafficking is described in the evidence from Gabriel Montoya. Carmen Toro participated in all of the important meetings between the two groups and was fully aware of what was happening.

The final declaration in this session came from the lawyer acting on behalf of "Roberto Barroso and others". This lawyer stated that the bombings were the work of a radical jihadist group. He stressed the importance of the role played by Rafa Zouhier.

Footnote: Once again we got the contrast between those parties to the accusation who work to sustain it, and those like the AVT who have worked so hard to undermine it. On the one hand you get arguments against named persons based on the evidence presented against them; on the other you get talk of the "hand that rocked the cradle" alluding to a hidden conspiracy which those who propose it have been completely unable to demonstrate. The problem they have is that the accusation of ETA involvement which they sustained for so long has been so thoroughly discredited that they are left with nothing more than untestable insinuations of dark forces at work. Interestingly enough, none of these associations propagating the conspiracy theories have followed through on the dubious logic of their arguments, they still maintain the accusation against the accused where consistency would suggest they have to withdraw it.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Statement by AVT
El País - AVT

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Trial....Day 47, June 12th

The day began with the continuation of the closing statement by Olga Sánchez for the prosecution. She resumed the statement with the question of the supply of the explosives used in the bombs, and talked of the relationship between Emilio Suárez Trashorras and the minor Gabriel Montoya; already sentenced for his part in transporting the explosives. Sanchez said that Montoya was fully aware he was transporting explosives to Madrid, and that he accompanied Trashorras to the mine together with Jamal Ahmidam in February 2004. A further visit was made at the end of that month when several of the accused loaded rucksacks with stolen dynamite which was then to be transported to Madrid. The Asturian connection to the explosives began to become clear when officers investigating the bombings talked to Trashorras.

The attacks were thought to have been financed by the sale of drugs. Otman el Ghanoui was closely involved with Jamal Ahmidam, and was used to help transport the explosives from Burgos to Madrid. On the night of the 10th March some of the mobile telephone cards related to the bombings were activated in the vicinity of Morata de Tajuña, location of the house where the bombs are said to have been prepared. The cell used several vehicles at different times, on the day of the bombings these were the Kangoo van and Skoda Fabia discovered in Alcalá de Henares. Other properties used by members of the group included a house in Albolote rented by Abdennabi Kounjaa and the apartment in the Leganés street of Carmen Martin Gaite.
Through investigation of telephone call traffic, the relationship of Trashorras to Serhane ben Abdelmajid, Kounjaa, Antonio Toro and Raul González has been established. Sánchez said that she believed there to be sufficient proof against all of those accused.

Against Abdelmajid Bouchar there is his flight from Spain and the evidence of his presence in Morata de Tajuña and Leganés, as well as a witness identification. Mohamed Larbi ben Sellam was close to Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, and he also worked with Mohamed Afalah who he later tried to contact when the latter was in Syria. Also connected to Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed are Fouad el Morabit, Basel Ghalyoun and Mouhannad Almallah Dabas. Ghalyoun possessed two telephone cards where call traffic was registered with those who died in Leganés. Almallah Dabas travelled frequently to London where it is believed he was in contact with Islamists. He participated in the meetings said to have been held in the property located in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro.

Mohamed Bouharrat had contacts with Jamal Ahmidam and some of his belongings were found in Leganés. Saed el Harrak was close to Kounjaa, Rifaat Anouar and the Oulad Akcha brothers. Anouar is alleged to have been one of those who helped with the transfer of explosives from Burgos to Madrid, and worked on the house in Morata de Tajuña. Abdelilah El Faoual El Akil was a long standing friend of Jamal Ahmidam and at one point helped to transport a car that Ahmidam later used on trips to Asturias. He was also present at one of the meetings where it is claimed the explosives deal was done, Rachid Aglif was also present. Hamid Ahmidam participated in the work on the Morata house, and was also later found to be in possession of significant quantities of drugs. Nasreddine Bousbaa was responsible for falsification of documents. Antonio Toro was not just involved in making the introduction of Rafa Zouhier to Trashorras, he was also present at one of the meetings between the Asturians and Jamal Ahmidam. Trashorras himself is implicated by the testimony of several of the accused as well as other evidence, his former wife Carmen Toro was fully aware of his activities and also attended meetings with Ahmidam.

Sánchez finished her statement by expressing gratitude to the different police and Guardia Civil divisions involved in the investigation. She talked of her work together with the investigating magistrate beginning on the day of the bombings itself. Additionally she paid tribute to the victims and their families, and criticised the attitude adopted by parts of the media. At this point the chief judge asked her to redirect her statement; Sánchez replied that she had been subjected to intense criticism.

The session continued with closing remarks by another member of the prosecution team, Carlos Bautista. He addressed some of the legal technicalities concerning the use of evidence such as the recordings made by the Italian police, the right to silence of the accused or the use of informal conversations as evidence in the hearing. He also talked of the meaning of some of the charges, and the difference between those charged of being part of the group committing the attack, and those who are accused of collaborating. Bautistia was followed by the closing declaration of the Abogado del Estado (State Lawyer), representing in this case the Spanish government, and also the public train company RENFE. His declaration rejected the idea that the security forces could have avoided the attacks and stated that their actions after the attacks had been exemplary.

Next it was the turn of the Asociación 11-M Afectados por el Terrorismo, one of the victims associations represented as a party to the accusation. The lawyer for this association expressed gratitude to the policeman who died in Leganés, the bomb disposal officer who deactivated the unexploded device found in a Madrid police station, to those officers who carried out the investigation, and to those who supervised it. The lawyer criticised the involvement of Spain in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying it had converted the country from being neutral to being one that wss involved in actions against sovereign states. He said that Spain had not adopted appropriate measures despite having received threats of possible attacks. These threats included the statement by Osama bin Laden in October 2003 threatening reprisals against Spain. The threats existed, and were known; but no measures were taken to prevent their realisation. He said that Al-Qaeda sets the strategy but does not need to have the pyramid structure of "classic" terrorist groups; instead they use local autonomous groups who share the ideology. This is what happened in Spain.

Combining the documentary evidence found with other evidence such as the telephone calls and genetic traces found, it is posible to see the role placed within the group by Rabei Osman al Sayed Ahmed, Youssef Belhadj and Hassan el Haski. In the active leadership of the cell were Fouad el Morabit, Jamal Ahmidam and Serhane ben Abdelmajid. The activities of the cell were then divided between information gathering, provisioning and execution, and the lawyer placed named members of the accused in each of these categories. The high command abandons the scene before the attack is committed, and he said for this reason Belhadj, El Sayed Ahmed, and El Haski left Spain just before the bombings.

On the issue of the explosives análisis, the representative of this association emphasised the mixture of Goma 2 Eco and Goma 2 EC that existed in the Conchita mine where the explosives are alleged to have come from. He said that there was no doubt that on the 28th and 29th of February 2004 a group including Jamal Ahmidan, Abdennabi Kounjaa, Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Gabriel Montoya and Emilio Suárez Trashorras removed explosives from the mine. All of the analysts involved in the tests agreed that dynamite was the explosive used in the bombs, without being able to put a commercial brand name to that dynamite.

On the translations of the taped converstaions involving Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, he emphasised that this person had been in Spain and that it was clear that he attempted to avoid talking about certain questions by telephone. It was evident that he was involved in recruitment and training, and that he was one of the heads of the Spanish cell. The lawyer quoted the passages where El Sayed Ahmed talks of those who died in Madrid being his friends, referring to theose who were killed in the Leganés explosion. This association requests that Fouad el Morabit be considered as one of the leading group, and drops any accusation against Brahim Moussaten. All other accusations remain the same, the lawyer finished by noting that those who travelled in the trains on the day of the bombings were peaceful, working people, the majority of whom were probably opposed to the Iraq war.

The next party to the accusation who declared was the representative of the Asociciación de Ayuda a las Victimas del Terrorismo del 11-M. This lawyer said that the arguments of the association had been much criticised, but that the trial was not uncovering the full truth of what had happened. They believe in the existence of a fourth group involved in the bombings, without excluding the possibility of ETA or of corrupt policemen. He denied that their participation in the trial had benefitted any of the accused. According to him, the 3 other elements of the conspiracy are:

  1. The Asturias group formed by common criminals. There is no evidence of the presence of Goma 2 EC dynamite, only Goma 2 Eco. Of the explosive used in Leganés, there was no doubt this was Goma 2 Eco, but in the case of the trains there was room for doubt.

  2. The group led by Jamal Ahmidam, and also composed of common criminals.

  3. The Jihadist group, led by Serhane ben Abdelmajid.

On the explosives, this lawyer said that the analysis carried out by the forensic police should be more credible than that conducted by the bomb disposal squad. He said the full tests should have been carried out in March 2004, not in 2007. He accused the former head of the bomb disposal squad and the officer responsible for testing samples from the explosions of false testimony and covering up of evidence. He rejected the possibility of the explosives samples being contaminated in the factory or the mine. It must have occurred in the base of the bomb disposal unit since 2004. Since there is a sample containing nitroglycerine and dinitrotoluene it is logical to think that Titadine was used in the bombs on the trains.

The existence of the fourth cell is backed up by the evidence of the informer Cartagena who said that those accused lacked the resources and knowledge to carry out such a perfect attack. He said it was not logical that those placing the bombs would do anything to stand out, referring to witness testimony on heavily dressed men seen near Alcalá railway station. The doubts over the unexploded bomb found in Puente de Vallecas police station have not been cleared. The main proof of the existence of a fourth group is the Skoda Fabia car that was also found near to Alcalá railway station – he claimed this vehicle was not in Alcalá on the day of the bombings, it must have been placed by someone later.

He said that it was grotesque to claim that the presence of Titadine did not mean ETA involvement when it is the only terrorist organisation known to possess this explosive. He called for an open sentence which would not lead to the investigation being closed.

Footnote: The statement by Olga Sánchez puts just about all of the accused in the position that the prosecution alleges they occupied in relation to the bombings. It's easy to see the case against those alleged to have supplied the explosives, not so clear still is that against all of those accused of being intellectual authors of the bombings; Hassan el Haski and Youssef Belhadj do not have a clear cut case defining their role even though it seems likely that they are committed Islamist activists. On the others it is evident that the majority of the direct perpetrators are dead or missing, those killed in Leganés or those who escaped are the ones linked most clearly to the different sites involved. Several of those accused have relatively marginal involvement based on the evidence presented, in several cases it seems unlikely that they can be given heavy sentences. The rebuke by the chief judge to Olga Sanchez when she complained of the media treatment she had received was harsh considering the leeway given to those propagating the conspiracy theories who have been allowed to dominate long sessions of this trial. The contrast between the 2 victims associations declaring could not be greater, one does the job they are there for; to support the accusation they have presented. The other floats the involvement of unnamed conspirators with no evidence to back up the accusation. Those who have abused the trial as a platform for conspiracy theories are immune to all facts presented, cherry picking only those parts which cast doubt on the authorship and ignoring everything else. So one sample containing nitroglycerine continues to be brandished as proof of another explosive used; the many other samples tested are rejected because they provide the wrong result.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
El País - Olga Sánchez
ABC - The Victims Associations

The Trial....Day 46, June 11th

The Prosecution Presents Its Closing Statement

The trial has now entered into its final stage with the closing statements by the prosecution, other parties to the accusation and the defence. This session began with the defence lawyers for the accused confirming their rejection of the charges against their clients. Next, Javier Zaragoza opened the final statement on behalf of the prosecution. He said that the final toll of the train bombings was 191 killed and 1841 wounded, to this should be added the effects of the bombings on hundreds or thousands of others who are not counted as victims but who travelled on the trains and witnessed what happened. Zaragoza said that the attacks were committed under the influence of Al Qaeda, with the direct precedents of bombings in the US, Tunisia, Bali, and Casablanca.

Two other precedents considered in the trial were an attempt by ETA to blow up a train at Chamartin station in Madrid, and the detention of ETA members carrying explosives not far from Madrid a short period before the Madrid bombings. By the afternoon of the bombings the use of Titadine had been discarded and there was the discovery of the van in Alcalá de Henares containing a tape of Koranic verses. On the 12th March the only unexploded device was discovered, and the card from the telephone contained in this bomb led to the detention of Jamal Zougam. From this point onwards the investigation clearly pointed towards Islamist terrorism. Meanwhile, the detonators led to the discovery of the Asturian connection with the supply of the explosives. Finally came the suicide in Leganés of 7 of the group said to have carried out the bombings.

Zaragoza said that the trial had seen some grotesque situations, a kind of schizophrenia caused by some of those who supposedly formed part of the accusation seeking to hold a parallel trial based on preconceived and baseless suspicions. They had claimed that the unexploded bomb was never on the trains, that the evidence found in the van in Alcalá had been planted, that another car involved was placed by intelligence agents and that there was an attempt to present an electric timer used for washing machines as if it was a timer used by ETA.

There had been some previous indications of Islamist threats to Spain, a report found in October 2003, a message from Bin Laden calling for attacks against all US allies, a message found on a web site threatening reprisals against those who had participated in the Iraqi invasion. After the attacks there were different claims of responsibility, on the 11th March it was claimed by the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, on the 13th came the appearance of the video tape left near the main mosque in Madrid. Following the Leganés suicide a fax was found with the writing of Serhane ben Abdelmajid which announced further attacks. In the wreckage of the Leganés apartment 2 further video tapes were found.

The principal evidence guiding the investigation was the following:

- The Kangoo van discovered in Alcalá de Henares on the day of the bombings and which contained detonators, the Koranic tape, remains of a cartridge of Goma 2 Eco dynamite, genetic traces from Allekema Lamari, Abdennabi Kounjaa, Rifaat Anouar and Daoud Ouhnane. The chain of custody of the van after its discovery was correct.

- The unexploded bomb discovered amongst personal effects in Puente de Vallecas police station in Madrid. It contained 10 kilos of Goma 2 Eco dynamite, and a mobile telephone with the alarm set to activate the device at 7:40 a.m. The telephone and its card led to the suppliers of both, which in turn led to the detention of Jamal Zougam. The cards sold were activated in the area of Morata de Tajuña, where a property was discovered containing fingerprints and DNA traces and where the prosecution believes the bombs were prepared.

Also important was the additional discovery in Alcalá of a stolen Skoda Fabia car containing genetic traces from Allekema Lamari and Mohamed Afalah; traces of explosives components were also detected in this vehicle. The prosecutor said that it was absurd to question the chain of custody of the unexploded bomb. On the question of visual recognition of the accused by witnesses, he said that the identifications from photographs at police headquarters were valid, and that additionally there had been identification parades and identifications made in the trial itself. One witness identified Jamal Zougam on 3 separate occasions, the first time on the 13th March 2004. Other witnesses also identified him.

In the apartment in Leganés those killed were identified as Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, Jamal Ahmidan (aka “Mowgli” Y “El Chino”),Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Rachid Oulad Akcha, Abdennabi Kounjaa, Rifaat Anouar Asrih and Allekema Lamari. Zaragoza said that there had been much speculation over the finding of the Leganés apartment by the police, especially after testimony from the police informer known as Cartagena who claimed that the police wanted him to go there. Some parties to the accusation and defence lawyers had even questioned whether the explosion was genuine. The apartment was located initially as a result of investigation of telephone calls by suspects made by the police officer Rafael Gomez Menor. Abdelmajid Bouchar managed to escape from the apartment.

Concerning Rafa Zouhier he said that there were multiple contradictions in his declarations, that he did not inform the police about a detonator given to him by those accused of supplying the explosives and that he never talked about explosives with his police contacts between July 2003 and the bombings in March 2004. Emilio Suárez Trashorras has made 6 declarations. He recognised that Jamal Ahmidam and Zouhier asked him to supply explosives when they met in a Mcdonalds restaurant in Carabanchel, Madrid. Trashorras did not provide his police controller with information about Ahmidam.

The question of the type of explosives used, according to Zaragoza, is an additional proof but not a definitive one. The bomb disposal squad already made clear shortly after the bombings that the commercial brand of explosive could not be identified. The unexploded dynamite recovered from different sites is all Goma 2 Eco and all of these present evidence of contamination with the substance dinitrotoluene (DNT). Contamination also explains the appearance 3 years later of traces of nitroglycerine. Dibutyl phtalate, only found in Goma 2 Eco, appears in tests carried out on samples from the trains. The presence of nitroglycerine in one such sample cannot be extrapolated to suggest the use of Titadine in the bombs.

On the issue of links to ETA, the use of mobile telephones to activate the bombs in the way used in Madrid is not known to be a technique used by ETA. It has been identified as something taught in the training camp inn Jalalabad, Afghanistan, run by the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group. The police report on possible links between ETA and Islamists forms part of the indictment and it's content has been ratified by those who prepared it. The opinion expressed by the authors of the report is that no connection has been established between ETA and the Madrid bombings, contrary to the claims made by Agustin Diaz de Mera

The latter part of the session was taken up by the conclusions of another of the prosecutors, Olga Sanchez. She also talked of the implication of Al-Qaeda in the attacks and how they promote the creation of local terrorist groups. The group in Spain has formed around Abu Dahdah and other individuals belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. She named other key members of the group as Mustafa Maymouni, Driss Chebli and Serhane ben Abdelmajid. Sanchez claimed that Serhane ben Abdelmajid and Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed had agreed with each other to carry out attacks in Spain, under the encouragement of Al-Qaeda and in response to the arrests of Muslims and the participation of Spain in the invasion of Iraq. She said that the date of the Madrid attacks was decided following the warning to US allies issued by Bin Laden. On the 3rd December 2003 a message warning of attacks on Spain was published on the internet site Global Islamic Media. She said that the decision to attack 911 days after the World Trade Centre attack in New York did not appear to be a coincidence, especially as it occurred just before the general elections in Spain. She noted that Spain was amongst those countries specifically named by Bin Laden in his warning of reprisals. On the 15th April 2004 a message from an Al-Qaeda leader shown by Al Jazeera television claimed indirectly responsibility for the Madrid attacks.

Sanchez said that until the end of 2003 the Islamist activities detected in Spain mostly concerned financial support and recruitment of activists. There was a network of activity covering Spain, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium and Italy. The planning of the Madrid attacks began in October 2003 and was carried out by those accused of being intellectual authors together with Serhane ben Abdelmajid. Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed left Spain for France in February 2003; he had already been investigated by the authorities and his relationship with some of the accused was established. She claimed that his later move to Italy was a consequence of the detention of Islamists in Milan in October 2003. His role in the attacks is established by the recordings of his conversations, and Sanchez expressed satisfaction with the work of the translators on these recordings.

The relationship of Hassan el Haski with the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group has been established via the collaboration between police and judicial authorities in several countries. This group is known to have had contacts with Bin Laden. Youssef Belhadj has been linked with Al-Qaeda by one of his own nephews; it is believed that Belhadj left Spain for Belgium on the 3rd March 2004. The operational preparation was done by Jamal Ahmidam, whose previous criminal experience was useful. He was supported by 4 of those who died in the Leganés explosion. Rafa Zouhier was the key contact between Ahmidam and those from Asturias accused of supplying the explosives.

Olga Sanchez then described to the court the events on the 11th March 2004, detailing the explosions that occurred on each train and the number of victims at each site. She said those responsible for the placing of the bombs were the 7 killed in the explosion in Leganés together with Abdelmajid Bouchar and Jamal Zougam. Both Bouchar and Zougam have been identified by witnesses, as well as one of the Oulad Akcha brothers. Key to the acquisition of the explosives was Rafa Zouhier who got to know Antonio Toro when both men coincided in the same prison in 2001. Toro was an associate of Emilio Suarez Trashorras. The access to the explosives in the Conchita mine in Asturias was made easier because of the lack of control over the use of dynamite at this mine. Some of the explosives were transferred to Madrid by associates of Trashorras.

At this point the session for the day was closed.

Footnote: The final declarations made by the prosecution finish in the next session of the trial, but this day more or less gives an overall summary of the prosecution case. It also shows where some of the weakest links are, as the evidence against those accused of being the intellectual authors of the train bombings still looks a bit fragile, and seems to depend on guilt by association rather than clear evidence of involvement. The chief prosecutor took a swipe at those who have abused their position as parties to the accusation to try and attack the prosecution case in their efforts to keep the conspiracy theories alive. The pattern of the closing stages of the trial is now set, the closing declarations by prosecution, then parties to the accusation and the defence.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
El País - Conclusions Zaragoza
ABC - Conclusions

The Trial....Day 45, June 4th

A busy day in the trial, with the conclusion of that part of it dedicated to the examination of documentary evidence, and the presentation of revised charges against the accused. Following the presentation to the court of photographs of the trains following the bombings, the court moved on to consider evidence of telephone conversations affecting the accused. This evidence consisted of recordings of conversations between the witness Lofti Sbai and two unidentified persons in which references are made to Rafa Zouhier. These conversations were recorded in April 2004. The court also heard some conversations recorded of calls made by Rafa Zouhier and Jamal Ahmidam.

The Key Evidence Against El Egipcio

Next the court moved on to consideration of the main evidence against Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio); the transcriptions of conversations recorded by the Italian police during their electronic surveillance of this person. The transcriptions were read to the court. These conversations contain references by El Egipcio to the Madrid bombings that the prosecution alleges show his involvement as one of the organisers. In particular there is a conversation where he is alleged to claim that it was his idea to carry out the attacks. This was followed by the reading of transcriptions prepared by translators appearing for the defence of El Egipcio. The defence disputes the validity of parts of the translation of these conversations.
The session continued with the reading of a report on explosive material discovered during an inspection of the Conchita mine in Asturias; from where it is claimed the explosives used in the bombs were stolen. This material consisted of detonators and cartridges of the dynamites Goma 2 Eco and Goma 2 EC. This was followed by the reading of police and Guardia Civil reports from Asturias concerning the information they had on those who were attempting to traffic with explosives in the region.

Later the session returned to El Egipcio as a report was read to the court on a request by the Spanish police for information from their Italian counterparts concerning their surveillance of El Egipcio. This part of the session was then expanded into a joint appearance between translators who had acted for the Italian police, those who had worked for the Spanish police, and those proposed by the defence for El Egipcio. One of the witnesses declared to the court that they had made a joint analysis of points where there had been disagreements of interpretation, and that they had reached agreement on all of these apart from two points where the specialists representing the Italian authorities were not in agreement. These two points of disagreement concerned parts of the recordings that potentially link El Egipcio to the bombings. The witnesses declared on their use of equipment for analysing recordings, including techniques for slowing down conversations or removing background noise. They also declared on their familiarity with variants of Arabic and interpretations of the Koran.

On a section where it is claimed that El Egipcio said "there is something I will not hide from you, the Madrid attack was my project and those who died like martyrs are my friends", one of the witnesses stated that not all of this section was clear; particularly a part where it is claimed he said "the trains, the Madrid attacks, everything depends on me". The Italian witnesses insisted they had heard this part. Another disagreement was over a fragment where the Italians had heard the Arabic word meaning "planned" in relation to the attacks, the witnesses from Spain had heard the word for "previous".

The Accusation - Revised Sentences

At this point the trial ended the examination of evidence concerning the bombings. The rest of the session on this day was taken up with the different parties to the accusation presenting their revisions to the case they make against the accused. In some instances the sentence requested is simply revised upwards because the official figure of those wounded is now 1841 rather than 1824. As sentences requested for the more serious charges are based on a multiplier of the number of those killed and wounded, these means an automatic revision of the sentences requested. However, in other cases the accusations have been changed or even withdrawn for some of the accused. The main beneficiary of this process has been Brahim Moussaten, neither the state prosecution or the other parties represented maintain charges against him and in view of this the chief judge decided to release him from the trial; leaving 28 defendants formally charged. In other cases the dropping of charges by some parties does not mean they cannot be convicted of those charges, in the end this is a decision taken by the judges.

The state prosecution also announced that they will not proceed with the accusations against Javier González Díaz. On the other hand they raised considerably the sentence they seek for Rafa Zouhier, considering that the trial had demonstrated a greater involvement on his part in the organisation of the supply of the explosives. Basel Ghalyoun has seen the more serious accusations against him of being a material author of the bombings dropped, although he remains accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation. The charges against Carmen Toro have also been increased on the grounds that she was more involved in the explosives supply than initially suspected.

Next came the turn of other parties to the accusation to present their conclusions on the sentences they request for the accused. The Association 11-M Afectados por Terrorismo maintain the accusation against Javier González Díaz. Another victims association, the Asociación de Ayuda a las Victimas del 11 de Marzo, called for the number of those counted as surviving victims to be raised to 1867 to include policeman involved in the siege of the Leganés apartment and the neighbours of that same apartment. The Asociación de Victimas del Terrorismo said that they were also withdrawing the accusation against Brahim Moussaten’s brother Mohamed. They also called for charges of illegal association to be dropped against Raúl González Peláez, Iván Granados Peña, Javier González Díaz, Sergio Álvarez Sánchez, and Antonio Iván Reis Palicio. Additionally, they wanted the charge of trafficking explosives to be dropped for Raúl González Peláez, Iván Granados Peña, Sergio Álvarez Sánchez, and Antonio Iván Reis Palicio. One party to the accusation, acting in the name of “Angeles Pedraza Portero and others”, also called for the accusation to be withdrawn against Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed and Jamal Zougam.

Footnote: An example in the trial of a defence lawyer doing what he is supposed to do. The lawyer for El Egipcio, instead of relying on conspiracy theories to try and distract attention from his client, has done a good job of casting doubt on the main evidence against this person. Whether it will be enough remains to be seen, in the end the translators managed to agree on almost everything. Meanwhile, with the revision of the sentences there are now only 28 accused as Brahim Moussaten goes free. Things have also got better for Basel Ghalyoun who is no longer being accused of being one of those who planted the bombs, because of the weak identification evidence against him. The revision of sentences is bad news for Antonio and Carmen Toro, and especially for Rafa Zouhier whose involvement in the whole issue of supplying the explosives is now seen as being more extensive and serious. It shouldn't go unnoticed that those associations that have done so much to try and introoduce conspiracy theories into the trial still maintain their accusations against the accused. Logic would seem to suggest they should call for their absolution, but as I have pointed out before logic is not a major influence in their deliberations.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - Translators
El País - Accusations

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Trial....Day 44, May 30th

The day began with the appearance by expert witnesses Y-40036-P, M-96780-Y, 19568 and 66646, continuing examination of reports on the explosive used in the train bombings. These witnesses testified on an assessment of the quantity of explosive used in the different bombs, and reached the conclusion that it was generally similar with around 10 kilos of explosive in each bomb. Each bomb also contained a detonator and a mobile telephone with the alarm set to activate the bomb at 7:40 a.m. Shrapnel consisting of nails or screws recovered from the explosion sites presented similarities to that contained in the only unexploded device. The estimate on the quantity was not just based on assessment of the unexploded bomb, but also on the reach of the explosion. They declared that it is difficult after an explosion to determine the precise type of dynamite used, to do this it is necessary to have some unexploded samples.

The next part of the session was taken up with the reading of declarations made by witnesses who have not appeared personally in court. One of these was the declaration to the Italian police of Belal Ghazi, an Egyptian citizen. This witness acknowledged knowing Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (El Egipcio) because they had been neighbours in Egypt. He declared that El Egipcio arrived in Italy in December 2003. The witness said that El Egipcio prayed, but that he never heard him saying anything bad about Americans. The declaration made by the witness Bachir Goumid to the French authorities was also read to the court. The witness admits in this declaration to membership of the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (MICG), and declared that in 2004 he offered accommodation to Hassan el Haski who he knew because they had studied together in Syria.

Following this came the appearance of professional interpreters at the request of the defence of El Egipcio. These witnesses testified on the translation of the recordings made by the Italian police who had El Egipcio under electronic surveillance. The witnesses testified that the translations contained several defects concerning the meaning of phrases or words in Arabic. Some of these defects concerned passages in the recordings where El Egipcio is said to have made reference to the trains bombings and those accused of participation.

The session finished with the viewing of two video tapes. The first of these was a tape of an Islamist training camp in Jalalabad (Afghanistan) which was recovered from the wreckage 0f the destroyed apartment in Leganés. The other tape was made by the police during their inspection of the house at Morata de Tajuña where the bombs are alleged to have been prepared.

Footnote: The issue of the translation of El Egipcio's conversations is an important one. These recordings are the only significant evidence against him and he is charged with being one of the intellectual authors of the bombings which carries one of the heaviest sentences. Otherwise, an uneventful day as the trial gets nearer to the closing stages.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
ABC - El Egipcio