RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
Today, a Spanish court delivers verdicts for 27 men and one woman. They're all charged in connection with the 2004 train bombings in Madrid. The charges range from masterminding the attack to stealing dynamite to building the bombs. Those bombs detonated on four commuter trains killing 191 people.
Reporter Jerome Socolovsky is at the court house in the outskirts of the Spanish capitol. And Jerome, let's start by narrowing down this list of suspects - a bit of the 28. Who are the key people that prosecutors are most concerned about?
JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: Well, the key people really worth mentioning are an Egyptian named Rabei Osman al Sayed Ahmed. Prosecutors say he was one of the masterminds of the attack. In fact, he was in Italy right after the bombings. And Italiana police have a wiretap in which a voice, which sounds like his, says, I was the thread in these attacks - meaning, he orchestrated them.
Another is Youssef Belhadj. He's a Moroccan who is arrested in Belgium. And prosecutors say he was the person in a video who, from behind a mask, claimed the attacks on behalf of al-Qaida.
There's a third interesting person - a Spaniard who was a former miner. His name is Emilio Suarez Trashorras. And he allegedly stole the explosives from a mine in Northern Spain and sold them to the terrorists in exchange for drugs.
Now, what't also interesting is - who's not here - about half a dozen people who, investigators believe, actually were among the group who planted the bombs on the trains - are not here because they died in a standoff with police several weeks after the bombings, three years ago.
INSKEEP: Jerome, you mentioned some of the events against these men. You mentioned an audiotape, you mentioned some video that have been matched against a person. What are they saying in their defense?
SOCOLOVSKY: Well, in their defense, they all deny any involvement. In fact, they're denying all the charges across the board. The suspect I mentioned, the Egyptian Rabei Osman al Sayed Ahmed says the voice on the tape was not his, that it's a mistranslation of Arabic, and that it's a - not admissible in court, any way. That's what his lawyer argues.
INSKEEP: Would you just remind us what it was like walking around Madrid on that day in 2004?
SOCOLOVSKY: It was a changed city that morning. A lot of people were really in shocked; they couldn't believe this was happening. Despite some suggestions ahead of time that Spain supports for the war in Iraq - was making the country vulnerable to some sort of retaliation by militants. And the immediate aftermath of the bombings, there were people with bloody faces just dazed around main terminal - the Atocha Train Station and the other locations where the bombs occurred.
INSKEEP: Then, of course, there was an election coming right up the bombing -ended up affecting that election. And now, a few years have passed - and I have to ask, how often these bombings come up in conversation when you move about that city?
SOCOLOVSKY: Well, at that time it came up a lot. There was a very intense three days between the bombings and the election. Three days later, the conservatives had a clear lead in the poll and the outgoing prime minister at that time had supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But in a stunning turnaround, the socialist won that election. Since then, there has been quite a bit of recriminations between the two main parties,. on the right and left, each accusing the other of trying to make political gain out of these attacks. At the level of the common person, though, I would say this attack has really faded into history.
I talked to a sociologist the other day who said that for many people, closure was really achieved when Spain pulled its troops out of Iraq. That was the socialist government that won the elections.
INSKEEP: All right. Well, Jerome Socolovsky is in Madrid where a verdict is being handed down today in the commuter train bombings from 2004.
Jerome, thanks very much.
SOCOLOVSKY: You're welcome, Steve.
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