Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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

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