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September 26, 2005
Spanish 9/11 Trial Nears Its End

Spanish authorities expect a verdict soon in their prosecution of three alleged 9/11 conspirators, in a case that has received scant attention in the American media -- and even less from the 9/11 Commission report. Twenty-four defendants will find out whether a panel of Spanish judges will rule that they gave material support to Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks:

Three men accused of helping to plot the Sept. 11 attacks waited to learn their fate Monday as Europe's biggest trial of alleged al-Qaida members neared its finale. ...

Binalshibh is alleged to have met in the Tarragona region of northeast Spain in July 2001 with Mohamed Atta, believed to be one of the suicide pilots, for a last-minute planning session.

The lead suspect in the Spanish trial, alleged al-Qaida cell leader Imad Yarkas, 42, a Syrian-born Spaniard, is accused of having set up that meeting along with another suspect, Moroccan Driss Chebli, 33. Both denied knowing Binalshibh or Atta or having anything to do with the terror attacks. ...

The third suspect facing specific Sept. 11 charges is Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, another Syrian-born Spaniard, who was indicted over detailed video footage he shot of the World Trade Center and other landmarks during a trip to several American cities in 1997.

This may come as news to many Americans, who have not seen or heard much about the Spanish proceedings. The Washington Post covered the start of the trial in April in some detail, when they presented details of the case that never made it into the 9/11 Commission's final report. The Commission insisted that Atta and Binalshibh never met with anyone else while Atta traveled to Spain, and only relegate Yarkas and Ghalyoun to footnotes, mostly on page 530 of their final report. In those footnotes, the Commission wrote:

Although U.S. authorities have not uncovered evidence that anyone met with Atta or Binalshibh in Spain in July 2001, Spanish investigators contend that members of the Spanish al Qaeda cell were involved in the July meeting and were connected to the 9/11 attacks. ... Although we cannot rule out the possibility that other facts will come to light as the Spanish case progresses to trial,we have not found evidence that individuals in Spain participated in the July meeting or in the 9/11 plot.

And one other for Yarkas on page 499:

Notwithstanding persistent press reports to the contrary, there is no convincing evidence that the Spanish al Qaeda cell, led by Imad Barkat Yarkas and al Qaeda European financier Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, provided any funding to support the 9/11 attacks or the Hamburg participants.

However, the Post reported that the Spaniards thought the evidence against Yarkas looked pretty good, including a conversation caught on a wiretap that informed Yarkas that the caller had "entered the field of aviation", "classes were going well," and that "the throat of the bird has been slit." This conversation took place two weeks before 9/11, but the Commission only mentions it in the footnote to dismiss it as irrelevant.

Spanish authorities also contend that Yarkas passed a phony passport to Binalshibh while in Spain, a contention that once again raises the spectre of Atta's true travel schedule. The position of the Commission and the timeline of the report depends on the conclusion that Atta never traveled under an assumed identity; it is how the Commission ruled out the trip to Prague in April 2001 that Czech intelligence still insists took place, with a meeting between Atta and a member of Iraqi intelligence.

The Spanish also have on trial a man named Dress Chebli, who allegedly assisted Yarkas in setting up the meeting. Chebli never gets any mention by the 9/11 Commission despite being part of the same indictment.

The report from the Spanish judges should be released today. We will soon see how much it differs from that of the 9/11 Commission, and also see how the media reports it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 26, 2005 5:53 AM

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