Spain announced May 28 it has arrested 16 suspected of recruiting Islamist fighters for Iraq and North Africa. The 14 Moroccans and two Algerians were alleged to have indoctrinated others with radical Islamic teachings and about “jihad.” Thirteen were arrested in Barcelona and nearby towns; two in Aranjuez, 50 kilometers south of Madrid, and one in the resort city of Malaga. Police have now arrested more than 100 Islamist suspects since deadly train bombings in Madrid in 2004, including some in an alleged plot to blow up Madrid’s high court. Spain is home to some 570,000 Moroccans—the country’s largest immigrant group. (Reuters, May 28)
The arrests come as the Madrid trial of 29 accused of killing 191 in the March 11, 2004 rail bombings draws to a close. Notes a commentary on Madrid11.net, a website which has been closely monitoring the trial:
The proceedings of the Madrid bombing trial have been marked in recent weeks by the unexpected hunger strike of fourteen of the defendants, in protest against what they perceived as the presumption of guilt thrust upon them by the media and politicians. Lawyers for the striking men expressed disgust at the conduct of the trial. Their clients, “who continue to condemn the bombings,” have “lost faith” in the Spanish judicial system. Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez maintained a firm line, insisting that the trial would carry on and not be suspended. The strike ended on 21 May after eleven days, when the strikers conceded that their act of defiance may be misinterpreted by the Spanish public. They issued an official statement pleading that the trial be “extracted from the political arena” and that the media afford them the presumption of innocence until proven guilty…
The court was surprised by the declaration of the father of the defendant Abdelmajid Bouchar (considered to be one of the main authors of the attack and for whom the prosecution has sought a sentence of 38,654 years in prison). This witness, who declared in Berber, pleaded that “we have come here to work, not to bring problems” and that “if the trial demonstrates that my son has done something, I am going to pledge to die before him”. His conclusion left the court room frozen: “The problems in Iraq or Afghanistan don’t matter to us. As far as we’re concerned, they can kill them all.”
Note: we cleaned up the translation a little from the original Spanish.
See our last post on Spain.