Reuters : Judge finds two guilty of Madrid bombings

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Judge finds two guilty of Madrid bombings

By Jane Barrett | October 31, 2007

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish judge on Wednesday found Moroccan Jamal Zougam and Spaniard Emilio Trashorras guilty in his first rulings over the Islamist bombings of Madrid trains on March 11, 2004.

Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez was reading out the first verdicts on a list of 28 accused of involvement in the bombings which killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800.

He also ruled out the participation of Basque guerrillas in Europe's deadliest al Qaeda inspired attack, when 10 bombs packed into sports bags ripped through four commuter trains.

Reading out a summary which preceded the verdicts and sentencing, the judge said there was no evidence that ETA rebels had been involved in the attack.

The bombings reshaped Spanish politics as voters spurned a conservative government that at first blamed the Islamist attack on ETA.

Twenty-nine people, mostly Moroccans and Spaniards, were tried earlier this year for crimes ranging from masterminding the attack to stealing explosives from a mine and selling them on in exchange for drugs. One has since been acquitted.

The judge also announced compensation ranging from 30,000 euros ($43,340) to 1.5 million euros for victims.

Survivors and families who lost members gathered at the courthouse.

"We are really nervous, really worried -- but we'd like to think that the judges gathered enough evidence to deliver a sentence that comforts all of us," said Jesus Ramirez, whose legs were shattered in the attack.

Early on Wednesday, the suspects were driven to the court room on the outskirts of Madrid under high security as helicopters buzzed overhead and scores of policemen stood guard.

The eight main suspects face multiple sentences of up to 38,958 years each, although under Spanish law nobody can stay in prison for more than 40 years.

All the suspects have pleaded innocent and most are expected to appeal against any sentences.

The verdicts will close another chapter on the bombings but with a general election less than five months away, they could embarrass the opposition centre-right Popular Party, which initially blamed ETA for the attack.

The blasts hit three days before the last elections, which the then Popular Party government had looked set to win, despite having led the country into the highly unpopular war in Iraq.

But the conservative government's insistence that Basque separatists planted the bombs backfired when evidence piled up to show they were the work of radical Islamists.

Days later, voters turned out en masse and brought in the Socialists, who quickly pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq.

(Additional reporting by Anna Valderrama)