'Al-Qaeda leader' denies links to terrorism
6 July 2005, MADRID — The trial of 24 men accused of being part of an al-Qaeda cell in Spain ended with one of key accused claiming his alleged links to terrorism are 'an invention'.
6 July 2005
MADRID — The trial of 24 men accused of being part of an al-Qaeda cell in Spain ended with one of key accused claiming his alleged links to terrorism are 'an invention'.
Eight of the defendants told the judges that they have no connection to terrorism.
Among those who addressed the court was the alleged head of the al-Qaeda cell, Syrian-born Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, who declared that the existence of the alleged cell was "an invention".
He said the relationship among the accused is simply one of friendship because "we've lived here (in Spain) for 20 years ..., we have the same religion and the same customs".
"Starting with this," he said, "a cell has been invented and I've been made a pillar of it because I'm a very open man."
Yarkas is one of three defendants in the Madrid trial accused of having aided the group that mounted the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, which left some 3,000 dead.
In his statement, he "categorically" condemned terrorism and "the deeds in Madrid," referring to the train bombings last year in the Spanish capital that killed nearly 200 people. That attack is blamed on Islamic militants.
Also addressing the court was Al Jazeera correspondent Taysir Alony, a Syrian-born Spanish citizen accused of having served as a messenger and courier for al-Qaeda.
The journalist said that "the exemplary punishment" that the prosecutor was requesting for the accused had already been carried out by issuing the indictment.
He also claimed the entire Muslim community had suffered as a result.
He expressed his surprise at the conclusion arrived at by prosecutor Pedro Rubira regarding the interview he had conducted with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The prosecutor had told the court that "it seems that (Alony) interviewed (his) boss".
"The circumstances of the interview have been analyzed under a magnifying glass at the international level," Alony said, recalling that it was broadcast by CNN after that network's news boss called it "important and professional".
The verdict in the mass trial which began in April before Spain's national court amid extraordinary security measures, will not be announced until the second half of September.
Prosecutor Rubira is seeking prison terms of more than 70,000 years apiece for Yarkas and the two other men he accuses of links to 9/11: Driss Chebli - also facing charges in relation to the 2004 attack in Madrid - and Ghasoub Al Abrash Ghalyoun.
Under Spanish law, however, the longest anyone can be held behind bars is 30 years.
In his final statement on 27 June, Rubira defended the European approach to fighting Islamic terrorism, arguing that "we do not need detention camps or wars, but trials of this type where the rule of law is strengthened".
"The people who stand accused today are not on trial for being Muslims, but for being terrorists," the prosecutor said, calling on the judges to hand down an "exemplary verdict".
"If terrorism is global, we have to fight it with global verdicts. Consider that what you are preparing to do is not only going to affect Spain, but the world," Rubira said.
The defence lawyers, making their closing arguments, focused on what they described as irregularities in the investigation, which was headed by Judge Baltasar Garzon, a who spearheaded Spain's unsuccessful effort to try former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Lawyers for several of the 24 men on trial told the court that Garzon had been so determined to pursue a case linked to the 9/11 attacks in the United States that he ignored a lack of compelling evidence against their clients.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news