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Madrid: 38,000-year jail terms sought

From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Prosecutors in the Madrid train bombing case will seek prison terms of about 38,000 years for each of the seven prime defendants in the trial due to start next February, according to a prosecution order released Monday and viewed by CNN.

The long prison terms will be sought for six suspected Islamic terrorists and also for a seventh man, born in Spain, who is accused of providing the others with explosives used in the attacks.

The sentences sought were calculated based on murder charges against the seven prime defendants for each of the 191 people who died in the attacks on Madrid commuter trains on March 11, 2004, and also for the attempted murders of the 1,824 others who were wounded, the 232-page prosecution order said.

The trial is expected to last for months. The defendants -- if convicted of all the charges -- would serve only a maximum of 40 years in prison, under Spanish law, which prohibits the death penalty, the prosecution said.

The train bombing case also has 22 other indicted defendants, mainly suspected Islamic terrorists but also including various Spaniards alleged to have been involved in explosives trafficking. These 22 defendants would face prison terms of 30 to 40 years each if convicted for their supporting roles in the attacks, a prosecution source told CNN.

The seven prime defendants include three suspected Islamic terrorists thought to be among the ideologues of the attacks. Prosecutors identified them as Youssef Belhadj, 30, and Hassan el Haski, 43, both of Morocco, and Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, 35, of Egypt.

Three other defendants are suspected of planting some of the bombs on the four trains that were torn apart by the explosions. They were identified as Jamal Zougam, 33, and Abdelmajid Bouchar, 23, both of Morocco, and Basel Ghalyoun, 26, of Syria.

The seventh prime defendant is Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, 29, of Spain, considered a "necessary cooperator" in the attacks, by allegedly facilitating the explosives that were manufactured in Spain and stolen from a mine in the north.

Prosecutors calculated the huge sentences by counting 30 years in jail for each of the 191 people who died; 18 years in jail for the attempted murders of the 1,824 people who were injured; 12 years for belonging to a terrorist organization; and 80 years for causing terrorist damage to four trains, the document said.

The seventh prime defendant is Spanish born, considered a "necessary cooperator" in the attacks, by allegedly facilitating the explosives that were manufactured in Spain and stolen from a legitimate mine in the north.

Seven further key suspects in the bombings blew themselves up three weeks after the attacks in 2004 as police closed in on their hideout in a Madrid suburb. The seven dead suspects were thought to also have placed bombs aboard the trains, the source said.

The beginnings of the Madrid attack could be seen in the merger in June 2001 of al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups, "creating an organization capable of coordinating a worldwide network that leads and provides cover for the actions of numerous Sunni Islamic extremist groups deployed from Europe to Southeast Asia," the prosecution document says.

The plot gained consistency after Spain sent troops to Iraq in support of the U.S.-led coalition there in 2003, and following a threat from Osama bin Laden in October 2003 against various countries, including Spain, the source said.

The new organization did not have a traditional hierarchical structure, but instead was responsible for the "infrastructure, financing, logistics of terrorist activity, (and) providing training camps to prepare 'holy warriors' in tactics of war," the prosecution document said.

The prosecution document on Tuesday will say that the technique of using cell phones as timers, connected to the explosives, was a method copied from terrorist training in Afghanistan, the source said.

Local terrorist groups, it added, "have sufficient autonomy to decide the form and method of the attacks, but following the 'fatwas' or decrees of their spiritual leader or taking ideological inspiration from the principles of radical Islamic fundamentalism."

The attacks in Spain took root, the document said, after various al Qaeda operatives were arrested in Spain in late 2001, following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

The plot gained consistency after Spain sent troops to Iraq in support of the U.S.-led coalition there in 2003, the prosecution said.

But the "final trigger" was Osama bin Laden's message broadcast on Oct. 18, 2003, on Al-Jazeera TV, which singled out Spain, along with some other Western countries, as objectives to attack, said a three-page summary prosecutors released along with the longer 232-page document.

"(That) set in motion the planning and execution activity of the attack (in Madrid), setting the date and beginning to prepare all of the logistics and infrastructure necessary to carry it out," the longer document said.

The technique of using cell phones as timers and connected to the explosives was a method taught at a terrorist training camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the prosecution document said.

A panel of judges at the National Court ruled last Tuesday ruled that the investigative phase of the Madrid train bombings has concluded, and that the case is ready for trial.


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The Madrid train bombing killed 191 people and wounded 1,755 others.

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