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Moroccan and indian accused deny madrid involvement

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Bomb Suspects Accused by Spain, Say Were Asleep
Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:25 AM ET

By Daniel Flynn
MADRID (Reuters) - Three Moroccan and two Indian men detained over the Madrid bombings were accused of terrorist crimes in court on Friday, but denied any links to al Qaeda and said they were asleep at the time of the attacks.

During a grueling seven-hour overnight hearing at Madrid's High Court, the three Moroccans were accused of 190 murders and belonging to a terrorist group. The Indians were accused of cooperating with a terrorist group, court sources said.

One of the Moroccans considered a main suspect -- Jamal Zougam -- wept in court before returning to pray in his cell, the sources added.

"The five detainees have denied any involvement... They have all said that when the attack took place on March 11 they were sleeping in their respective homes," a court source said.

"They say they don't have any link with al Qaeda or any terrorist organization."

All five were ordered held in custody after their initial appearance, which ended at 4 a.m. on Friday morning. They were taken to Soto de Real jail, just north of Madrid.

Bombs exploded on four packed commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, killing 202 people. The attacks, the bloodiest since the Bali bombings in 2002, have been claimed by a militant Islamic group aligning itself to al Qaeda.

There was no immediate explanation of why the men were accused of 190 murders. It could relate to the number of bodies formally identified.


Investigators have said an unexploded bomb found on one of the trains, containing a mobile phone that would have been used to activate the bomb, provided valuable evidence.

As well as Zougam, the other two Moroccans have been named as his brother Mohamed Chaoui and Mohamed Bekkali. The three were all detained in a telephone shop run by Zougam in Madrid.

The Moroccans are also accused of 1,400 attempted murders, a figure which approaches the number of wounded, four "terrorist acts," presumably one for each train bombed, and stealing a vehicle.

As well as cooperating with extremists, the two Indians, Suresh Kumar and Vinay Khohy, were accused of forging documents.

Under the Spanish legal system, the accusations made against the five means the court considers there is a case to answer, providing grounds to keep them in custody. A decision on formal charges is taken later.

Sources said the five were being held in solitary confinement, though they can see a court-appointed lawyer.

Five more people -- four North Africans and a Spaniard -- were arrested on Thursday as part of the investigation. Judge Juan Del Olmo is expected to question them by next Tuesday.

The Spaniard, captured near Oviedo in northern Spain, is suspected of stealing the locally-made explosives used.

At 202, the Madrid death toll has matched that of the 2002 Bali attack, the worst of its kind since the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York. Some 1,816 people were wounded in the Madrid bombings.

Investigators and judges are pursuing possible links between the Madrid attack and the May 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, that killed 45 people.

The Madrid bombings contributed to the opposition Socialists' surprise win in Spain's general election last Sunday and prompted EU interior and justice ministers to hold emergency talks in Brussels on Friday to discuss new security measures.

Belgian police said on Friday they had detained a suspect wanted in Morocco in connection with the Casablanca attacks. London police investigated a "definitive link" between the Madrid bombers and al Qaeda supporters based in Britain.

Unconfirmed claims of responsibility for the Madrid bombs, from a group purporting to be linked to al Qaeda, said the attack was in retaliation for the Spanish government's support for the U.S.-led war on Iraq, which most Spaniards opposed.

(Additional reporting by Madrid bureau)

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