Accused play down links to attack 'masterminds'

22nd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 February 2007, MADRID - Some of the lesser defendants on trial for the Madrid commuter train bombings claimed their contacts with the alleged organizers of the attack were incidental.

22 February 2007

MADRID - Some of the lesser defendants on trial for the Madrid commuter train bombings claimed their contacts with the alleged organizers of the attack were incidental.

That was the main thrust of the defence of Moroccans Rachid "The Rabbit" Aglif, Abdelilah El Fadual, Saed El Harrak and Hamid Ahmidan on the fifth day of the trial of 29 defendants for the deaths of nearly 200 people in March 2004.

But at one point, Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez ordered one of the accused out of the courtroom for making faces during the testimony of another defendant.

"I am sick of his gestures," the magistrate said, referring to Rafa Zuhier, who was expressing displeasure over critical remarks about him from the mouth of Aglif.

Zuhier, a 27-year-old Moroccan, was later allowed to return to the bulletproof chamber within the courtroom from which he and 17 other defendants are observing the proceedings. The remaining 11 accused are sitting in open court.

Facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges that he helped acquire the explosives used in the attack, Zuhier was on the payroll of the Civil Guard, Spain's national militarized police force, as a confidential informant at the time of the massacre.

Last Friday, Zuhier held up a sign during a recess in the trial that said "I will never provoke the victims for whom I risked my life warning the Civil Guard".

The magistrate ordered the sign removed.

The accused all continued to deny their participation in the multi-bomb attack and to acknowledge their contacts with one of the alleged "masterminds" and with several of the men who presumably carried it out, but they said those contacts were only casual in nature.

Aglif, for whom the prosecution has requested 21 years behind bars for collaborating with a terrorist group and trafficking in explosives, is described in the indictment as the lieutenant of Jamal Ahmidan, alias "The Chinaman," considered the logistical leader of the attack.

Ahmidan was one of the seven suspects who blew themselves up in an apartment in the Madrid suburb of Leganes on 3 April, 2004, as police were surrounding the building.

Aglif denied participating in the hashish-for-explosives swap used to acquire the materials employed in the backpack-bombs, even though he admitted taking part in a meeting with the main suspects accused of providing the explosives, which came from a mine in the northern Spanish region of Asturias.

He described Ahmidan as a man who became "extremely religious ... (and) more closed off" after a stay in prison in his native Morocco.

The name of The Chinaman also came up in the testimony of Abdelilah El Fadual - for whom the prosecutor has asked for 12 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization - who admitted that he bought a car from him a few days before the 11 March strike.

According to the charges, that vehicle earlier had been used to transport the explosives from Asturias to Madrid, but El Fadual said he did not know anything about that.

The car, the defendant told the court, "was very dirty, as if it were a Land Rover" when he took possession of it on March 1, 10 days before the attacks, at the farmhouse near Madrid where allegedly the bombs placed on board the trains were assembled.

That day, he said, was the last time he saw Ahmidan, whom he said he met in 1999 in Madrid and with whom he had "a normal relationship" until 2003, from which point on he "did not have any contact" except for buying the car from him.

He also said that he knew the brothers Rachid and Mohamed Oulad Akcha, also among the seven dead in Leganes, whom he visited in their home to sell them some clothing and who invited him to watch jihad videos on a computer, something that - he told the court - he refused to do.

In addition, Saed El Harrak appeared on the stand facing charges of belonging to a terrorist organization for which the prosecution has requested he spend 12 years in prison.

Numerous phone calls made to Ahmidan were made on El Harrak's cellphone.

El Harrak attributed those calls to Abdennabi Kounjaa, another of the seven men who killed themselves in Leganes, who worked with him.

The main evidence against El Harrak is that among his belongings police found a letter from Kounjaa that proved to be his will and a farewell statement to his family. That find was made in June 2004.

"He didn't give me any letter. He must have put it there thinking that some day I would see that letter, would read it and would give it to his family," said El Harrak.

In any case, he added, if he had known he had it, "I would have burned it because a letter like that is dangerous."

The shortest testimony came at the end of the session from Hamid Ahmidan, who is charged with collaborating with a terrorist organization and drug trafficking, charges for which prosecutors are asking 23 years in prison.

The fingerprints of the cousin of The Chinaman were found on the property where supposedly the bombs were assembled and in one of the vehicles used by the terrorists.

During the initial hearing, he pleaded not guilty and said that he was being tried only "for being Jamal's cousin."

Fifteen Moroccans, nine Spaniards, two Syrians, an Algerian, an Egyptian and a Lebanese national are charged with roles in the coordinated bombings of four Madrid commuter trains on March 11, 2004, that left 191 dead and more than 1,800 others injured.

Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of 39,000 years for those accused of masterminding the March 11 atrocity, though under Spanish law, no one can be held in prison for more than 40 years.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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