April 7, 2006

Italy resumes trial of Madrid bombing suspect

By Svetlana Kovalyova

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian investigators started presenting
their case on Friday against a former Egyptian army member
suspected of helping to plan the Madrid train bombings in 2004
that killed 191 people.

The trial in a Milan court began in January with procedural
matters and on Friday investigators began explaining their
evidence against Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, dubbed "Mohamed the

He is charged with "subversive association with the aim of
international terrorism" under a special law enacted after the
September 11 attacks in the United States.

Prosecution evidence includes recorded conversations that
police say show Ahmed taking credit for the Madrid blasts on
March 11, 2004, three days before Spanish elections. More than
2,000 people were wounded.

Ahmed is standing trial with another Arab man, named as
Yahia. The two looked calm as they stood in a cage inside the
courtroom, guarded by two police.

"Rabei's activity in Spain was to indoctrinate the young
people," Bruno Megale, a Milan police investigator, told the

Judicial sources have said Ahmed was trained as an
explosives expert in the Egyptian army, but his lawyer said he
worked in an army office.

Ahmed, 34, also denies that his voice was the one making
claims about the Madrid blasts in the recorded conversations.

His lawyer supplied Reuters with signed copies of papers in
which Ahmed said he had suffered abuse while in Italian and
Spanish custody.

The accusations included being forced by prison guards to
do gymnastics naked.

The hearing, which began at 9:45 a.m. (0745 GMT), coincided
with the final day of campaigning for two-day general elections
which begin on Sunday.

Italy's government, long wary of a repeat of Madrid-style
pre-election violence, said this week it had thwarted terrorist
attacks ahead of the vote. The likely targets were Milan's
metro system and the San Petronio basilica in Bologna, which
has a fresco of the Prophet Mohammad burning in hell.

The trial comes days before a Spanish judge is due to
charge about 30 people with involvement in the Madrid train
bombings, wrapping up a two-year investigation.

So far 116 people have been named as suspects in connection
with the attacks, blamed on militant Islamists, in which bombs
exploded on four crowded commuter trains.

Ahmed had been handed over to Spanish authorities from
December 2004 to April 2005, and a witness in Spain reportedly
identified him as having been present at a Madrid house where
the bombs were made.