April 9, 2006

Spain to bring charges in Madrid bombings

By Joe Ortiz

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish judge is expected to charge
about 30 people with involvement in the 2004 Madrid train
bombings on Monday, completing a two-year investigation into
attacks which left 191 people dead.

Judge Juan del Olmo will take steps toward a trial that
probably won't start before early next year, judicial sources

Some 116 people have been named as suspects in the March
2004 attacks, in which bombs packed in sports bags exploded on
four crowded commuter trains. Twenty-five people are already
behind bars.

Del Olmo's report, which runs to more than 1,000 pages,
will detail charges against the suspects.

The case is unprecedented in Spain in terms of bloodshed
and complexity, and the trial could last 10 months because so
many defendants and lawyers are involved, a lawyer said.

No venue for the trial has been named, but accommodation
will be needed for hundreds of people including the accused,
lawyers, court officials, police, journalists and members of

Before the case gets to trial it must pass through an
initial preparatory period, but the High Court judge's report
will be the main basis for the proceedings, legal experts say.

The March 11 bombs injured more than 2,000 people and
traumatised Spain, already worn down by years of bombings and
shootings by Basque guerrilla group ETA, which last month
declared a permanent ceasefire.

Prosecutors say the 10 train bombs were activated by mobile
phones that were traced to a shop in central Madrid, run by one
of two main suspects.

Seven suspected bombers blew themselves up three weeks
after the attack when police surrounded their apartment
building in southern Madrid. Another fled Spain and died
fighting in Iraq.

While Madrid got back to its feet quickly after the
bombings, politicians have continued to trade accusations about
who knew what and when, and how that information was used.

The blasts hit Madrid just three days before a general
election that unexpectedly removed the right-wing party of Jose
Maria Aznar, a close ally of U.S. President George Bush.

Aznar's Popular Party (PP) had taken a hard line against
ETA during its administration and quickly painted the Basque
separatists as the main suspects for the attacks, despite
evidence pointing to Al Qaeda-linked cells and therefore a
possible link to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which Aznar had

When Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took over as prime
minister he recalled Spanish troops from Iraq as he had
promised to do in his election campaign.

Documents declassified last year showed that four months
before the bombs, the National Intelligence Center sent a
report to the Interior Ministry warning of a possible Islamist