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Aznar insists he told truth about Madrid massacre

29 November 2004

MADRID – Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznarinsisted that his government told the truth in the aftermath of the 11 March Madrid train bombings as he gave testimony to a parliamentary inquiry.

“We told the truth — it was others who lied and engaged in manipulation,” insisted Aznar as he roundly defended his government’s decision to pin the blame for the blasts, which killed 191 people and injured close on 2000, on the Basque separatist group ETA.

Spain’s worst ever terrorist attack came with the country engaged in the final days of campaigning for a March 14 general election which Aznar’s rightwing Popular Party (PP) had been set to win under leader Mariano Rajoy, Aznar having long before decided not to seek a third term in office.

The government’s insistence that the bombings were the work of ETA, even as evidence emerged fingering Islamic extremists angered by Aznar’s decision to back the US-led war in Iraq, culminated in a surprise Socialist Party (PSOE) victory.

Some voters appeared to have changed sides, considering that the PP, by blaming ETA, had attempted to mislead the public in the aftermath of the attacks on four commuter trains.

Aznar and his party have insisted all along that there is a connection of some kind between different terrorist groups, including between the Al-Qaeda affiliates who claimed responsibility for 11 March and ETA.

“Today this (is) an irrefutable fact,” Aznar insisted, regarding such links.

“Let’s get to the truth,” he added, having first offered condolences to the victims’ “sacrifice and pain.”

He insisted that in the hours following the blasts the government did all it could to pass on information to the electorate “rapidly and efficiently,” and said its intelligence services had carried out “admirable” work in investigating the blasts.

“I don’t believe in spontaneous demonstrations,” he added, referring to the
demonstrations outside PP headquarters two days after the blasts.

On Monday, several dozen people gathered outside parliament, some brandishing Spanish flags and showing their support for Aznar, but others holding up placards deriding the former leader.

Some placards bore slogans showing a blood-red hand and the legend “Aznar responsible,” while others wore t-shirts with “transparency” on one side and
the name of a victim on the other.

Aznar accused the Socialists and the media of manipulating the situation to their own ends — their goal the electoral defeat of his administration.

“It was others who lied,” Aznar charged, adding that the 13 March demonstrations against his party had constituted “a serious alteration of the laws of the electoral game.”

Spanish electoral law demands a ‘day of reflection’ the day before a
general election without any campaigning.

Aznar said that there had been “enormous manipulation” in the media, particularly Cadena Ser radio, traditionally close to the Socialist Party (PSOE), following the attacks and that his government had faced “aggresssive, sectarian, anti-democratic and false” claims.

Aznar insisted the government had been “quick to inform (the electorate) 

“The smoking gun of a supposed lie by the government which I led … has
not appeared. We told the truth as far as we knew it,” Aznar insisted.

PSOE secretary Jose Blanco had predicted on Sunday that Aznar would seek to
“de-legitimise the March 14 election result”.

Aznar responded that it was his opponents who had sought “to create a climate of de-legitimisation of the government.”

He noted that the PSOE had issued a formal statement shortly after the blasts to the effect that “ETA has tried to intervene in the campaign,” while  moderate Basque nationalists forecast that ETA was writing its final chapter.

Aznar’s foreign minister Ana Palacio sent a telegramme on 11 March to Spain’s ambassadors telling them “to confirm ETA was responsible.”

Two weeks ago, Spain’s supreme court handed down the first sentence i the 11 March attacks, giving six years in youth detention to a teenager after he pleaded guilty to handling explosives used in the attack.

In taking the floor before the inquiry Aznar became the first first former head of government ever to appear before such a commission since the restoration of Spanish democracy following the 1975 death of Franco.

Socialist Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is scheduled to appear before the inquiry on 13 December.

“The smoking gun of a supposed lie by the government which I led … has not appeared. We told the truth as far as we knew it,” Aznar insisted.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news