Three leading suspects deny roles in Madrid bombings
16 February 2007,
16 February 2007
MADRID - Three leading suspects appeared on the second day of the Madrid bombing trial, each denying any role in the atrocity.
Youssef Belhadj refuted claims on Friday he was the head of Al Qaeda in Europe.
Questioned by prosecutors, Belhadj also denied knowing Rabei Osman, known as Mohammed The Egyptian and said to be one of the brains behind the bomings.
He also said he did not know another alleged ringleader, Hassan el Haski.
Belhadji is allegedly one of the 'ideologues' behind the massacre in which 191 people died and over 1,800 were injured when four commuter trains were blown up in Madrid in March 2004.
Jamal Zougam, who was said to have helped supplied telephones used to detonate the bombs on rush hour trains, said he was asleep on morning of the attacks.
In a series of vague responses to his own lawyer, he also denied knowing any of the other alleged conspirators.
Later, Hassan el Haski told the court he had nothing to do with the attacks.
He also said he did not know any of the other accused.
On Thursday, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed told the Madrid court, which is hearing the case of 29 suspects alleged to be involved in the attacks, that he had never incited anyone to commit terrorism.
"I have never had any relation to the events which took place in Madrid", he said in the witness stand.
He said he was a practising Muslim, but not an extremist and did not advocate violence in the name of the religion.
He condemned the Madrid bombings, as well as the September 11 attacks on New York and the bombings in London.
He had voluntarily given samples of his DNA and had his fingerprints taken and said the evidence showed he had not been at the scene of the bombings.
The Egyptian, as he has become known, was sentenced to 10 years by an Italian court last year for his alleged role in the attacks, and was the first of the 29 accused to be called to the stand after the case opened.
In the morning, he said he would not answer lawyers' questions.
“I don’t recognise any of the accusations and with all respect for the chief judge and the magistrates I’m not going to answer any questions including from my own defending lawyer”, the Egyptian told the court.
However, later in the day, he agreed to answer questions from his own defence lawyer.
Prosecutors are asking for a total of 38,656 years’ prison for his part in planning the Madrid attack, which also injured 1,825 people – although under Spanish law he could only serve a maximum of 40.
The trial, expected to last at least four months, opened in the presence of a full courthouse which included around 140 journalists, dozens of lawyers, relatives of the accused, victims of the bombings and relatives of those who died in the bombings.
Three-hundred police officers were also assigned to maintain security at the court. The Spanish interior ministry upped the country's risk of a terrorist attack while the trial is under way to status 2.
Some of the victims of the bombings watched the trial on screens in a separate room with psychologists were on hand.
The trial is also being shown live on television and on the internet, with images transmitted in real time to broadcasters around the world.
More than 600 witnesses and 100 forensic investigators have been called to give evidence.
The rush-hour bombings on 11 March, 2004, shocked Spain, leading to an abrupt change of government and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.
Twenty Arab men, mostly Moroccans, are accused of providing drugs to pay for explosives, helping suspects escape and preparing the bombs that blew apart four commuter trains.
Nine Spaniards are charged with supplying and delivering explosives to the Islamist cell.
Prosecutors at the March 11 trial are arguing the bombings were the work of an extremist Islamic cell with links to Al-Qaeda which wanted to force Spain out of Iraq.
Three days after the bombs, Spain voted out the then conservative government which had backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
After the hearings, the judges are expected to take until at least October to consider their verdicts and sentencing.
The case continues.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news