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Acquittals, Lesser Convictions In Madrid Trial

From an elated New York Times:

A policeman stands next to some of the 28 suspects accused of the 2004 Madrid train bombings during the reading of the sentence inside an annex of the High Court in Madrid.

7 Acquitted, Including Accused Mastermind, in Madrid Bombings


MADRID, Oct. 31 — Spain’s National Court handed down sentences today stretching to tens of thousands of years to three men for killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800 others in the March 11, 2004, bombing of Madrid commuter trains.

In practice, those three will serve 40-year terms, the maximum that Spain allows.

The court found 18 others guilty of lesser charges related to the attacks, such as belonging to a terrorist organization.

Seven remaining defendants were acquitted entirely, and not one of the three accused of organizing the attack was convicted of doing so. In all, many of the sentences were much lighter than those sought by the prosecution for the coordinated bombings that traumatized the nation.

The verdicts closed a sprawling trial that over the course of five months brought 29 defendants, 40 lawyers and 350 witnesses to a temporary courtroom on the outskirts of Madrid. The verdicts offer the first taste of justice to those wounded in the attacks as well as relatives of those killed on March 11, 2004, when 13 sports bags stuffed with explosives tore through trains carrying hundreds of people from mainly working-class suburbs to the city center. The bombings changed the course of politics in Spain which was used to decades of Basque but not Islamic terrorism.

They were carried out by a group of Islamist radicals that intersected with a band of Moroccan petty criminals whose ringleader, Jamal Ahmidan, became radicalized in a Moroccan jail. Seven of the main suspects, including Mr. Ahmidan, blew themselves up in a Madrid apartment to avoid arrest three weeks after the attacks, and another four are believed to have fled.

The verdicts underscore the difficulty of building a solid legal case against defendants suspected of playing an inspirational role in a diffuse and nonhierarchical network, rather than having direct involvement in the violence.

Javier Gómez Bermudez, head of the tribunal, sentenced Jamal Zougam, a 34-year old Moroccan who witnesses described seeing on one of the fated trains, to prison for charges that included murder, attempted murder and belonging to an “armed group.”

He handed down a similar sentence to Otman el-Gnaoui, 32, a Moroccan convicted of helping to transport the explosives used in the attacks from the northern region of Asturias, on the northern coast of Spain, to Madrid.

Judge Gómez also sentenced Emilio Suarez Trashorras, 30, to long sentences for his role as a “necessary accomplice” in the massacre. Mr. Suarez, a former miner from northern Spain, supplied the stolen dynamite used in the bombings in exchange for drugs.

The tribunal acquitted Rabei Osman, who was accused of being one of the masterminds of the attacks. Mr. Osman is already serving an eight-year sentence in Italy for belonging to a terrorist organization.

Spanish prosecutors presented tapes of conversations in which Mr. Osman was said to be boasting of his part in planning the Madrid bombings as evidence. However, the Italian translation of those conversations, originally in Arabic, was disputed in the courtroom, and two sets of Spanish translators provided a more ambiguous interpretation of his remarks.

Judge Gómez’s conclusions further discredit the suggestion that ETA, the militant Basque separatist group that has a long record of violence in Spain, played any role in the bombings. The theory of ETA’s involvement, espoused by some conservatives, often took center-stage during the five-month trial and continues to divide Spaniards and politicians.

José Maria Aznar, prime minister at the time of the attacks, pointed the finger of blame at ETA immediately after the attacks and held to that view for three days, despite mounting evidence that the bombs were the work of Islamic terrorists.

That decision, coupled with the fact that Spaniards felt they were being punished for their part in the Iraq war, tipped voters against Mr. Aznar and his Popular party lost elections on March 14, 2004, to the Socialists, the party of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who became prime minister.

Was it cowardice or incompetence or both?

Seven of the main suspects, including Mr. Ahmidan, blew themselves up in a Madrid apartment to avoid arrest three weeks after the attacks…

The joke is on them.

What a disgrace.

Well, Spain seemed to like living under the Muslims the first time around.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 31st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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