Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Trial....Day 54, June 27th

Otman El Gnaoui

With closing statements form defence lawyers still continuing, this session was opened by the lawyer representing Otman el Gnaoui. This lawyer began by saying that neither the prosecution nor the other parties to the accusation had made a real evaluation of the evidence against his client, despite him being accused of being one of the material authors of the bombings. He supported the points made by other defence lawyers concerning the secrecy of the investigation and the impact this had on the preparation of the defence.

He claimed that several telephone calls said to have been made by his client were in fact made by Jamal Ahmidam. Additionally, he complained about the presence of only one expert in the elaboration of reports, saying that 2 specialists were required as a means of guaranteeing the integrity of the report. El Gnaoui recognised that he had been present in the house at Morata de Tajuña where the bombs are said to have been prepared. He was there working on the house as a result of his contacts with a brother of Jamal Ahmidam. He said that his client did not associate with the others at the property and was only there for one month. The telephone conversations he had with Ahmidam were all connected with the purchase of materials for work at the house. El Gnaoui did not know Ahmidam before going to work at the house.

On the clothes discovered abandoned on the day of the bombings near Vicálvaro railway station, he said that the DNA traces on these belonged to several people, not just to his client. Regarding documentation of his that went missing, El Gnaoui has already declared that this loss occurred in a discotheque. His client had no way of knowing that any of his actions might be involved with the commission of an offence. He finished by saying that his client was not an Islamist and did not hate Spain; he was simply in the wrong place accompanied by the wrong people. The lawyer called for him to be found not guilty.

Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil

The lawyer for Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil opened his statement by saying that the judicial authorisation for entry and search of his client’s home was invalid. During this search he claimed that no evidence was found incriminating his client. He was interrogated by the police without a lawyer present.

On the accusation that El Akil took over Jamal Ahmidam's drug trafficking activities whilst Ahmidam was in Morocco, he claimed that even if this were true it demonstrates nothing about his participation in the train bombings. Nor does the involvement of his client in the work carried out at the house in Morata de Tajuña imply his involvement in the bombings. Being a friend of a terrorist does not convert someone into a terrorist too. Concerning the charge that El Akil took care of repairing Ahmidam's cars, the lawyer said that this happened only once. He said that El Akil is not a religious person and is not known in the mosque. Being charged with membership of a terrorist organisation means acceptance and knowledge of the objectives of that organisation by the person accused. His client knew nothing of the plans of Jamal Ahmidam.

Mohamed Bouharrat

The lawyer for Mohamed Bouharrat began by saying she would not enter into detail on the faults of the process, because other defence lawyers had already done so. She said that only the prosecution and one of the parties to the accusation had made any reference to her client. She complained of attempts in the trial to criminalise Islam and to pass judgements on the behaviour of its followers.

On the accusation made that it was not clear how Bouharrat made a living, she said the defence had provided information on the companies where he had worked. She pointed out that her client did not follow the hunger strike initiated by some of the other accused. Of all the telephone records presented, there are no calls made by Bouharrat to any of the others accused of involvement. On the question of some passport size photographs made by her client, she said this does not mean they were to be used in false documents. On a document found in the wreckage of the Leganés apartment and attributed to Bouharrat she said that this document was in very bad condition. A witness declaration claiming to have seen Bouharrat with Mohamed Afalah on April 26th 2004 could not be correct, it has been shown that Afalah fled Spain immediately following the events in Leganés on the 3rd April 2004. Her client has not attended any of the meetings cited by the prosecution, and nothing else relates him to those committing the bombings.

The absence of proof of any involvement of her client in the group responsible meant that he could not be found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation. She finished by noting that she herself knows the mosque in Lavapies in Madrid, she knew several of the accused from before the bombings and has frequented places associated with the accused. Perhaps on that basis she suggested that there is more evidence against her than against Bouharrat.

Saed el Harrak

The lawyer for Saed el Harrak began by complaining that he was given a week to prepare the defence case. He said that his client was religious and had never hidden that fact. He was married with 2 children and despite what the prosecution had said he was a hard working person. He had got to know Abdennabi Kounjaa because they coincided in the same mosque in Parla, near to Madrid. The wife of Kounjaa accompanied that of El Harrak on a visit to a gynaecologist. He said that Kounjaa had used his clients telephone to make several calls on a journey they made together to leave a car in a garage.

On a farewell message written by Kounjaa that was allegedly found in a bag belonging to El Harrak, the lawyer said that this message was not found by anyone checking the bag until it reached the main investigation team. He said that the authorship of the message was doubtful, not least because it was written in Latin script. He claimed the detention of his client was illegal, and that El Harrak has not been identified in relation to any of the locations associated with the bombings. The accusation of El Harrak belonging to the group responsible since 2001 has not been sustained and the lawyer stated that telephone contacts are not sufficient for someone to be arrested. He called for his client to be freed.

Carmen Toro

The lawyer for Carmen Toro began by saying that Toro was only 20 years old at the time of the train bombings and that her reaction to the pressure of being linked to the bombings shows that she is not a mature person. Despite this, she has no criminal history and worked full-time. The lawyer also emphasised that Toro was married to someone suffering mental illness, Emilio Suárez Trashorras. On phone calls attributed to Carmen Toro, the lawyer said that she left her mobile telephone at home while she was at work and that it could easily have been used by her husband to make calls. The testimony of the police contact of Trashorras made it clear that Toro was not at the centre of her husbands activities. Those of the accused who know who she is knew her only by sight. Carmen Toro never dealt with Rafa Zouhier or Jamal Ahmidam and her presence in meetings related to the sale of the explosives was only because she accompanied her husband to Madrid.

A phrase she is alleged to have said in a police station asking her husband to leave her out of what he told the police had been taken out of context. Without Carmen Toro, nothing would have changed in the preparation of the attacks as she had no function in this and knew nothing about the explosives trafficking. As a woman, she would not be allowed to participate in a conspiracy by radical Islamists.

Emilio Llano Álvarez

The representative for Emilio Llano Álvarez opened by expressing solidarity with the victims of the bombings and stating that he requested the absolution of his client on the grounds of lack of evidence. He said that his client was charged with having failed to properly control the usage of explosives in the Mina Conchita, from where the explosives used in the bombs are said to have come. The lawyer claimed that his client had simply followed the same procedures used by his predecessor and that his refusal to declare proves nothing. It is not true that his client was solely responsible for controlling the material used in the mine. Inspections had never revealed more than small errors in the control carried out at the mine. If there was a failure in control of the explosives, this failure can also be attributed to the Guardia Civil and the management of the mine.

The lawyer said that there is no evidence that the bombs on the trains used explosives from Mina Conchita, and that the case rests on leftovers recovered from the Leganés apartment. It is not possible to state definitively that the explosives found in Leganés came from Mina Conchita, they can only be traced as far as the company that delivers to several mines. There is no evidence to suggest his client knew about the removal of explosives from the mine. Although his client knew Trashorras, this was only because the latter had worked in the same mine.

Adelmajid Bouchar

The lawyer for Abdelmajid Bouchar opened by saying that no witness had placed his client at the scenes connected with the bombings. His DNA had not been found in the vehicles believed to have been used, or on the clothing recovered at Vicálvaro railway station. A witness identification had since been retracted. He said their was no telephone traffic recorded between Bouchar and the other accused, nor was Bouchar recorded as being present at the Madrid property of Virgen del Coro. Nor did he attend the meetings to do the deal over the explosives. He had not been named by any of the key witnesses familiar with Islamist activities. His fingerprints were detected on a book recovered from the wreckage of the Leganés apartment.

He stated that the participation of Bouchar as a material author of the bombings had not been substantiated, nor could he be considered as a participant in the Leganés events as he left the building well before the explosion. On the DNA identification made on a date stone found in a rubbish bag abandoned by Bouchar as he fled, his representative said that the test was not carried out until 2005 after his client was arrested in Serbia. No clothes or fingerprints belonging to Bouchar were discovered in the apartment, because his lawyer said that he was never present in this apartment. On this basis he asked for his client to be absolved.

Footnote: The cases of Bouharrat, El Akil, and El Harrak are hard to call; these are people on the fringes of the case whose level of participation in the bombings is not absolutely clear. Another fine example of defence work by Bouharrat’s lawyer, her closing argument against guilt by association based on who you know was well worked. El Gnaoui’s defence is more difficult, he is more closely associated by evidence to the preparation and carrying out of the bombings. It will be very surprising if Bouchar is freed, almost caught as he fled the Leganés apartment and only arrested after passing through half of Europe, it seems hard to imagine that he will escape punishment. The verdict on Carmen Toro will also be interesting, the charges against her have been increased as a result of the trial as her involvement appeared to be greater than initially expected. Either an unknowing bystander involved through family connections or a player in her husband’s attempts to traffic explosives. Meanwhile, the prosecution of Emilio Llano seems one of the most doubtful, clearly the control of explosives in the mine was appalling but that does still not make someone an accessory to a terrorist attack. Nor was he the only person responsible for that situation.

Datadiar - Daily Summary
El Mundo - Carmen Toro
El Mundo - Mohamed Bouharrat
ABC - Abdelmajid Bouchar
ABC - Otman el Gnaoui

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