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Madrid victims criticize schoolyard politics

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   http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=332547

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=332547

Madrid Bomb Victims Criticize 'Schoolyard Politics'
Reuters

Dec. 15, 2004 - Victims of the Madrid train bombings issued a stinging rebuke of politicians for seeking to gain from the tragedy that killed 191 people, injecting humility into a previously raucous parliamentary investigation.

"This commission should be for all of us but you have appropriated it to play schoolyard politics," Pilar Manjon, whose 21-year-old son died on one of the trains bombed on March 11, told a special parliamentary commission on Wednesday.

The commission hopes to discover the truth behind the attacks in which Islamic radicals bombed four packed commuter trains three days before a general election. The televised hearings are separate from a closed-door criminal investigation.

The March 11 Victims' Association had to fight to get their leader's appearance on television after the commission voted to close the doors for her own privacy, but the commission relented at the last minute and agreed to make it public.

"You (the commission) have focused on what happened between March 11 and March 14. Nothing could be further from the interests of the victims. We know perfectly well what happened. We searched for our dead. We cried for them. We buried them. We cremated them. We said goodbye," Manjon said.

Several of the commission members apologized.

Fighting back tears, Manjon also reprimanded the media for constantly repeating images of the atrocity on television and in the newspapers.

"Stop selling us as a show," said Manjon, whose group represents families of the dead and 1,500 people wounded in the blasts aboard four packed commuter trains.

Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, in power at the time of the attacks, and current Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero each have taken the witness stand for marathon sessions that provoked heated, wide-ranging political debates.

The attacks were tinged with politics from the start, with Aznar's conservative government erroneously blaming the bombings on the Basque separatist group ETA in what the Socialists called a deceit motivated by the election campaign.

After the Socialists' surprise election win they were accused of appeasing militants by making good on a campaign pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq -- sensitive because the bombers attacked in the name of al Qaeda in revenge for Aznar sending in Spanish troops.

All of these issues and more have been rehashed in the commission amid mutual accusations of lying and political back-biting.


Copyright 2004 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 2004 ABC News Internet Ventures



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