Thursday, July 12, 2007

Awaiting Sentence

Although it may not always seem like it, this blog is still being updated. Heavy personal commitments in June meant that the "production team" fell further behind than usual in recording the trial sessions. The trial came to an end at the beginning of last week, and the 3 judges have now to make their deliberations and deliver a sentence for the 28 defendants who remain accused of participating in the train bombings. In the next 2-3 weeks the backlog of trial sessions will be documented, and I will have some time to consider the possible outcome as the verdict is not expected before the autumn.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Trial....Day 49, June 18th

The session on this day continued the closing declarations by parties to the accusation against the accused. First to declare was the lawyer Juan Carlos Rodríguez Segura, representing “Angeles Pedraza Portero and others”. This lawyer thanked the court, and all of those involved in helping on the day of the bombings. He then turned to the criticisms made against some parties to the accusation, and said that there was nothing more beautiful than the search for the truth. Rodríguez Segura said that the train bombings had been presented as a consequence of the war and the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq. He claimed that Spain had not gone to war, the country provided humanitarian assistance only.

He said that there are serious doubts about Al-Qaeda being behind the attacks, the accused were a mixture of common criminals, police informers and drug traffickers. On the question of ETA involvement he claimed that this had not been investigated, those accused did not have the resources to carry out the attacks. He went on to state that there were grounds for nullifying the process, the investigation had been directed in one line only and had only set out to demonstrate the “official” truth. The evidence of declarations and tracking of telephone calls was not being questioned, but there was doubt over the explosive used and the chain of custody of key evidence. Rodríguez said that the search for those really behind the attack had been obstructed, and that we should ask who benefited from the train bombings.

He claimed that the Skoda Fabia car alleged to have been used by those placing the bombs was placed after the bombings, and not by the police. There was a fourth group involved in the bombings that placed key evidence after the attacks. He also said there were doubts about the Renault Kangoo van discovered on the day of the bombings because the sniffer dogs failed to detect explosive traces in the van. On the unexploded bomb discovered in Puente de Vallecas police station he said that this is the base for the assertion that the explosive used was Goma 2 Eco. No evidence had been found at the explosion sites of mobile telephones having been used to activate the bombs and it is not clear that the batteries of such phones carried sufficient power to do this. The chain of custody on the Vallecas bomb is not clear.

On the explosives used, the lawyer said that it was fundamental to know the weapon used in order to determine the authors of the bombings. All of the investigations had been oriented towards demonstrating the use of Goma 2 Eco, the analysis carried out by the bomb disposal squad after the bombings is questionable and there are a series of indications pointing to the involvement of others not present in the trial. On the issue of whether the explosives samples tested had been contaminated, he said that the possibility of this occurring in the factory had to be discarded. The issue of Titadine being the explosive had been avoided, because it points to ETA involvement. He declared that the association he represents did not believe that Goma 2 Eco was the explosive used on the trains.

They withdraw their accusation against Jamal Zougam, the witness identifications are not sufficiently clear. On the explosion in Leganés, Rodríguez said that here there was no doubt about the use of Goma 2 Eco and that those who died in the apartment were participants in the train bombings; but that there was another organisation involved. Those accused did not have the organisational capacity to plan these attacks without the support of another structure. On the Asturian group accused of supplying the explosives, he said the involvement of Antonio Toro and Emilio Suárez Trashorras in explosives trafficking was known to the police in 2001. This should have been investigated at the time. They maintain their accusation against the Asturian group, but only for the deaths in Leganés.

Rodríguez maintained that there was a connection between ETA and the explosives, saying that “ETA is not pardoned, we know they were involved and that’s it; but we don’t have the proof”. He also said that they were not convinced by the evidence against Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, and that he had already been tried in Italy. Finally he requested that the testimony of the former chief of the bomb disposal squad, Sánchez Manzano, and the officer responsible for the initial tests on the explosives be discarded.

Next came the statement from the lawyer representing Isabel Pinto Libramiento. His client is a surviving victim of the bombings. Her lawyer supported most of the prosecution conclusions except for 4 specific points. They want to maintain the accusation against Javier González Díaz because of his close links to Emilio Suárez Trashorras. They also seek a stiffer sentence for Carmen Toro for her involvement in the explosives sale, and for her brother Antonio Toro because of his role as the initial contact in the deal. The lawyer criticised the way in which the explosives analysis was carried out, and said that it was not possible to be sure that the explosive used was Goma 2 Eco.

Alvaro Sanz Marlasca made a closing declaration on behalf of Mario Pelicari and Remedios López Osa García, whose son was on one of the trains that were bombed. He said that the bombings were the product of exhaustive planning, several cells linked to Al Qaeda operated in Spain. This lawyer placed emphasis on meetings that were organised to recruit for the Islamist cause, and that out of these meetings emerged the group led by Youssef Belhadj and Hassan el Haski. He also mentioned the evidence of telephone communications linking many of the accused. In addition to this core group he said there was a group dedicated to forgery of documents, drug trafficking, car theft and murder. The funding for the attacks came from these activities.

He said that Rafa Zouhier was involved in all of the meetings where the explosives deal was arranged and played a fundamental role in linking the Islamists and the Asturian group supplying the dynamite. Carmen Toro was important as a point of contact between several of the accused, and had a coordinating role. Both suppliers and transporters of the explosives should be found guilty.

Gonzalo Boyé spoke on behalf of Angélica Maria Geria Cortés. He gave partial support to the prosecution case. On the question of whether Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed had been subjected to trial twice for the same offence, Boyé rejected the suggestion saying that the crime he was charged of in Italy could not be compared to the charges against him in Spain. He rejected claims by others of the accused that they had not been given the opportunity of a fair trial. Additionally, he attacked the idea that those accused were just poor immigrants or that it is Islam that is on trial. They are charged because of the danger of their actions as a combined unit. He criticised some of the accused for exercising a partial right to silence, answering questions when they wanted to. He said this could not be compared to the right to not declare.

Concerning the brief hunger strike undertaken by some of the accused he said that this was an attempt at blackmail by Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, Youssef Belhadj and Hassan el Haski. Boyé said that the accusation he represents believes that El Sayed Ahmed arrived in Spain just before the bombings to give the last touches to the plan together with Belhadj and El Haski. Of the other accused, Boyé emphasised the participation of Jamal Zougam, Abdelmajid Bouchar and Fouad el Morabit. On the connection to those accused of supplying the explosives, he also supported the key roles of Rafa Zouhier, Emilio Suárez Trashorras as well as Carmen and Antonio Toro. On the causes of the train bombings, this lawyer said that Iraq was the justification the authors needed rather than the direct cause.

The next closing declaration came from the accusation representing Maria Mercedes López Casado, represented by the lawyer María Teresa Díaz. She declared that it was not clear that Al Qaeda were behind the attacks, and that not all of the evidence against the accused was convincing; those accused are not the only guilty ones. She expressed support for the accusation representing the Asociación 11-M.

Finally came the statement on behalf of María Isabel Ruíz Borrallo. Her representative pointed to the lost opportunities to prevent the bombings even though some of the accused were known to the police. Before the train bombings the authorities were not alert to the threat. On the explosive used, the lawyer said that the commercial brand could not be identified but that it was already known the day after the attacks that dynamite had been used in the bombs. The unexploded dynamite recovered from different sites was undoubtedly Goma 2 Eco, given the link to Leganés and the theft of dynamite in Asturias it is reasonable to conclude that what exploded on the trains was Goma 2 Eco too.

Footnote: The opening statement of this session is as pure a synthesis of conspiracy theorist reasoning as you could hope to find. In the best traditions of the art, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Segura turned the burden of proof on its head to argue that ETA must have been involved unless someone can demonstrate the contrary. Completely immune to the evidence presented during the trial, when of course this same lawyer had every opportunity to demonstrate his claims, it is as if he has slept throughout the whole process. As for his claim that the Spanish intervention in Iraq was merely a humanitarian mission it would be funny were it not for the tragic events that followed and with which this trial is concerned. As with some other parties to the accusation, we get the curious situation where they do everything possible to try and undermine the prosecution case yet still maintain the accusation against the majority of the accused. The contradiction of that position escapes them, but as I think I have observed before concerning these people, logic will never be their strongest point.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
El Mundo - Rodríguez Segura
El País - Rodríguez Segura