Continuing his testimony on Wednesday at the Madrid trial of 24 suspects – Europe’s biggest court case against radical groups with alleged ties to Osama bin Laden’s terror network -Mohamed Ghaleb Kalaje Zouaydi also denied belonging to an Islamic group or recruiting young people to send as fighters to countries such as Afghanistan.
“I am not and have never been a member of a group of any ideology or political nature, not even a sports group,” said Zouaydi.
“I chose Islam as a way to worship God, nothing else,” he said.
Zouaydi has testified that he donated large sums of money to Muslims but said it was charity.
Responding to a question from his lawyer as to whether he ever sent money as part of jihad or holy war, he replied: “never, not even a peseta,” referring to Spain’s former currency.
Taysir Aluni is the only defendant
On Monday, the court will hear from Aljazeera journalist Taysir Aluni, the only defendant currently out on bail.
Zouaydi, a Syrian-born Spaniard who ran real estate and construction firms, is accused of using his business dealings as a front for financing a Spanish al-Qaida cell and funneling money to Muslim extremists in other countries, including Germany, another alleged staging ground for the suicide airliner attacks of 2001.
Zouaydi also told the court he knew the alleged leader of the cell, Imad Yarkas, from daily contact and a business deal involving the purchase of a Madrid apartment but said he didn’t agree with some of Yarkas’s radical views.
“Imad is a polite person, a friend to his friends and a good person,” Zouaydi said.
Three of the 24 suspects, including Yarkas, are accused of using Spain as a staging ground to help plan the September 11 attacks. Zouaydi is among the other 21, who face charges of terrorism, weapons possession or other offences, but not September 11 planning.
In testimony later on Wednesday, alleged cell member Bassam Dalati Satut, also known as Abu Abdo, called Zouaydi trustworthy, saying Zouaydi did not use company money for terrorism.
“I have no recollection that Zouaydi used funds for any other aim that wasn’t for construction works,” said Dalati, a former business associate of Zouaydi.
Suspects were said to be using
Zouaydi and Dalati condemned the terrorist attacks last year in Spain and in the United States in 2001, as well as any act of violence. Prosecutors said alleged cell leader Yarkas got in contact with Dalati, who ran a photocopy shop, in 1995 to make copies of magazines promoting terrorist groups worldwide.
Dalati acknowledged knowing Yarkas from business. He said Yarkas made photocopies in his shop but said he didn’t know what they were about.
“He was just another client. He came, he did the copies and left,” Dalati said. “I don’t even know what they were about.”
In a search of Dalati’s house, police found two diaries allegedly containing the bank account number of Mustapha Setmarian Nasar who, authorities said, ran bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan.
Dalati told the court he had not seen Setmarian since 1993, and that their relationship was purely commercial. Another suspect, Ahmed Koshagi Kelani, confirmed in court that he made three money transfers to Germany – from 1996 to 1998 – to Mamoun Darkanzali, an alleged al-Qaida member said to be close to the Hamburg cell that plotted and carried out the September 11 attack. But he said they were simply for the purchase of cars.
The trial adjourns until Monday.