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

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