Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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

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