September 25, 2005

Spanish court to rule in September 11 case

By Adrian Croft

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's High Court is to deliver its
verdict on Monday on whether three alleged al Qaeda members
helped plan the September 11, 2001 hijack attacks on U.S.

A conviction would be the first in Europe in connection
with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, Driss Chebli and Ghasoub al
Abrash Ghalyoun could each be handed jail terms of more than
74,000 years if convicted of 2,973 murders over the 2001
attacks, although in fact they would serve no more than 30.

They are among 24 people accused of al Qaeda membership in
Europe's biggest trial of suspected Islamist militants. All say
they are innocent.

The three-judge panel heard from more than 100 witnesses
during a two-and-a-half month trial that ended in early July.

On Monday, the judges' verdict will be read out at a
high-security courtroom in Madrid in a session due to start at
1.30 p.m. (1130 GMT).

The Madrid case pre-dates the al Qaeda-linked Madrid train
bombings of March 11, 2004 that killed 191 people. Another
judge has accused more than 100 people of a role in those

The central figure is Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah, who
is accused of leading a Spanish al Qaeda cell.

He and Chebli are accused of helping prepare a July 2001
meeting in Spain at which prosecutors say the September 11
attacks may have been planned.

The evidence against the Syrian-born Yarkas included a
wire-tapped phone conversation that he had on August 27, 2001
with another September 11 suspect held in Britain, Farid


In the conversation, Hilali referred to aviation training,
said "they are giving very good classes" and said "they have
chopped off the head of the bird" -- which investigators
interpret as a reference to the coming September 11 attacks.

Yarkas told the court the call "has absolutely nothing to
do with what you say."

The third defendant is Syrian-born real estate developer
Ghalyoun, who prosecutors say traveled to the United States in
1997 and filmed New York City landmarks such as the World Trade
Center, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.

He is alleged to have passed on the videotape to al Qaeda.

The video, played at the trial, bore hallmarks of holiday
picture-taking, with friends being asked to "say cheese."

The High Court freed Ghalyoun on bail in May.

Another high-profile defendant is Al Jazeera journalist
Tayseer Alouni, who could face nine years in prison if
convicted of belonging to a terrorist group.

Alouni interviewed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden shortly
after the September 11 attacks. Prosecutors accuse him of
carrying money intended for al Qaeda members on visits to
Afghanistan for his journalistic work. He denies the