Tough sentence urged in al-Qaida trial

A Spanish prosecutor has criticised the US war on terror as he requested an "exemplary sentence" against an alleged al-Qaida cell, three members of which are accused of helping plot the September 11 attacks in the United States.

    Twenty-four alleged al-Qaida members are being prosecuted

    "We don't need wars. We don't need detention camps, but rather this kind of trial that strengthens the rule of law," prosecutor Pedro Rubira said in closing arguments at the trial of 24 alleged al-Qaida members.

    He was apparently referring to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for terror suspects.

    "The world will be watching when you issue a sentence," he told the three-judge panel that will issue a sentence.

    "Be aware that what you do not only affects Spain, but affects the whole world," he added.

    Spain is the only country other than Germany to put September 11 suspects on trial.

    Alleged Hamburg cell

    The only person charged in the United States with involvement in the attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, pleaded guilty in April.

    "I ask the court for an exemplary sentence," Rubira said after the court heard two months of testimony.

    "We don't need wars.
    We don't need detention camps, but rather
    this kind of trial that strengthens the
    rule of law"

    Pedro Rubira,
    Spanish prosecutor

    A sentence is expected some time in September. Most of the defendants are Syrian or Moroccan-born.

    The prosecution is seeking jail terms of more than 74,000 years for the alleged cell leader, Syrian-born Spaniard Imad Yarkas, and two other suspects accused of using Spain as a staging ground to help plot the September 11 attacks.

    Rubira said Yarkas is "closely linked to Islamic terrorism" and in particular to the cell in Hamburg, Germany, accused of carrying out the attacks.

    Yarkas and two other defendants are accused of being accessories to terrorist murder.

    Spain meeting

    Rubira is seeking sentences of 25 years for each of the nearly 3000 people killed in the airliner attacks in New York and Washington.

    Under Spanish law, the maximum time they could serve on a terrorism conviction is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

    The 21 other suspects are accused of terrorism and other offenses but not of planning for September 11. They face sentences of nine to 21 years if convicted.

    The defendants deny they were
    involved in the 9/11 attacks

    Yarkas and Driss Chebli, a Moroccan, are accused of arranging a meeting in the Tarragona region of Spain in July 2001 at which alleged pilot Mohamed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged plot coordinator, met to decide on the final details of the attack, including the date.

    Both suspects have denied any involvement in September 11 or al-Qaida and testified that they did not know Atta or Binalshibh.

    But on Monday, Rubira noted testimony at the trial earlier this month by a protected witness who said he had seen Yarkas with those two men on a Barcelona subway train in June 2001.

    September 11 plot

    The witness identified the three "beyond the shadow of a doubt", Rubira said. "The witness's account is credible."

    Judge Baltasar Garzon indicted
    the 24 men in 2003 

    Rubira also insisted that evidence presented at the trial showed clearly that Yarkas had close and long-standing ties with members of the Hamburg cell that allegedly carried out the September 11 attacks. Its members included Atta and Binalshibh.

    However, Rubira did not mention testimony from the top Spanish police official for "Islamic terror probes", Rafael Gomez Menor, who said he had no proof that Yarkas arranged the Tarragona meeting and did not know exactly how Yarkas took part in the September 11 plot.

    Gomez Menor also testified that Spain has no proof that videotapes of the Twin Towers and other US landmarks shot in 1997 by another suspect on trial here were passed on to al-Qaida members in Afghanistan.

    This was alleged by Judge Baltasar Garzon, the magistrate who indicted the 24 men.

    That defendant, Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, testified that he shot the videos simply as a tourist, not a September 11 conspirator.

    Taysir Alluni

    Journalist Taysir Alluni listens at
    the Madrid High Court

    Aljazeera reported that the court in Madrid also announced the list of charges in the case involving its correspondent Taysir Alluni.

    The general prosecutor, Rubira, has considered the work of Alluni, as an Aljazeera correspondent in Afghanistan, as evidence for his conviction.

    He said Alluni failed to explain why the Taliban permitted him to stay in Afghanistan, and charged him with giving preference to al-Qaida in his reports.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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