The conviction of four people, found guilty of involvement in the Madrid train bombings in 2004(photo), has been overturned by Spain’s Supreme Court. They were among 21 people, convicted last year over the attacks, which killed 191 people.
An Egyptian, suspected of masterminding the attacks, saw his acquittal upheld by the court, because he had already been convicted of the offence in Italy.
Nonetheless, the court convicted and jailed one of those originally found not guilty.
The Spanish man, who was sentenced to four years in prison, had earlier been cleared of helping to supply the explosives used in the Madrid attacks.
In October, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, the Egyptian man, had been cleared of involvement in the bombings. The court ruled that, because he had already been sentenced to eight years in prison in Italy for belonging to a terrorist organisation, he could not be convicted again for the same crime.
Mr Sayed was appealing against the Italian judgement, meaning that technically he had not been convicted, argued prosecutors.
In that case, Mr Sayed’s lawyers are challenging key evidence : a recording in which he apparently boasts of masterminding the bombings. The voice heard is not his, say his lawyers, adding that it has been mistranslated.
Three men have been cleared last October, by a Spanish court, of masterminding the attack, and seven others have been acquitted, while 21 people were convicting for involvement in the attack.
The acquittals angered many victims support groups, who said that the sentences handed down were much lower than those requested by the state attorney.
The BBC’s Danny Wood, in Madrid, say that the decision to overturn some of those convictions will not please these groups. A survivor of the attacks, Jesus Ramirez, said that though he did not agree with it, he accepted the court ruling.
“Even though we may oppose it in our hearts, they have more information and have weighed the evidence and made a decision”, he told the Associated Press.
In the same time, Luca D’Auria, Sayed’s Italian lawyer, expressed satisfaction at the verdict.
“Both myself and (Sayed’s) Spanish lawyer have always imagined it would end this way – I am extremely satisfied”, he said.
During the Madrid bombing, ten rucksack bombs tore through four packed commuter trains on 11 March 2004. It was Europe’s most deadly terror attack since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The course of Spanish politics was changed by the attacks, say analysts, as in an election three days later, voters ditched a conservative government who at first blamed the bombs on the Spanish separatist group Eta.
Though they had no direct links to al-Qaeda, the bombers were part of a local Islamist militant group inspired by the terror organisation, said Spanish investigators.
Their action’s aim was to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, added investigators.