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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 19:00 GMT
Views from Madrid on bomb verdict
Dominic Hughes
BBC News, Madrid

Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed stands behind bars in a Milan court, Nov. 6, 2006
Rabei Ahmed was acquitted of involvement in the bombings
It's all too easy to reduce the Madrid train bomb attacks to figures.

Ten bombs on four trains. 191 dead, more than 1,800 injured. A two-year police investigation.

A trial lasting four months, featuring 650 witnesses, and thousands of pages of evidence. Three judges deliberating for a further three months.

And then the verdict.

21 out of 28 defendants convicted. But seven - including one of the alleged masterminds of the operation - acquitted.

But while the figures give an idea of the scale of the bomb attack and the subsequent investigation and trial, they fail totally to convey the human cost of the tragedy.

Angeles Pedraza lost her daughter Miriam.

"I'm learning to live without her. As a mother she's part of you, of your life, of everything and it leaves you dead. Alive, but you're really dead", she told the BBC.

And there was the 21-year old student, Antonio Miguel Utrera, so badly hurt he suffered several strokes that left him with serious brain injuries.

During the trial he described the aftermath of the attack:

"It was like a dance of sleepwalkers, very sad, very quiet. No-one looked at one another, everyone stared into space."

Divisions run deep

Some terrorist attacks serve to unite countries - not so in Spain. Politicians of left and right accused each other of playing politics with the tragedy.

And the divisions that ran through Spanish society in March 2004 - when the centre-right Popular Party lost power to the Socialists in elections held three days after the attacks - still run deep.

Even now there are those who believe the Basque separatist group Eta was involved, despite the trial judge going out of his way to say there was no evidence to support what has become an enduring conspiracy theory in Spain.

Too many were convicted of minor crimes... Some of them are already back on the streets
Victim's mother

And some are unhappy with the verdicts, particularly with the acquittal of Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, known as Mohammed the Egyptian.

He's currently serving a 10-year sentence in Italy on terror charges and has been described as "a true entrepreneur of international terrorism".

The main evidence against him was a phone tap in which Ahmed is alleged to have boasted about his role in the Madrid attack.

He always denied any involvement and the judges who heard the case clearly decided there were insufficient grounds for a conviction.

And in some ways his acquittal could bolster the credibility of the judicial process.

Long sentences

But one mother who lost a son in the bombing said after the verdict: "It's good to know who did it, but too many were convicted of minor crimes like drug offences. Some of them are already back on the streets."

The judges had no doubts about three of the other defendants, however.

Jose Emillio Suarez Trashorras, the Spanish miner who supplied the explosives, Otman el Ghanoui, the Moroccan who transported them to Madrid, and another Moroccan, Jamal Zougam, who ran a phone shop that supplied a sim-card found together with an unexploded bomb and was seen planting explosives on one of the trains.

All were sentenced to the maximum 40 years in prison.

They will be old men before they get out.





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