Spanish bomb victims call for independent investigation
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Posted on Wed, Dec. 15, 2004
Spanish Bomb Victims Criticize Parties
MADRID, Spain - A spokeswoman for those killed and injured by the Madrid train bombings called for an independent investigation of the terrorist attacks and tearfully pleaded Wednesday for Spain's political parties to stop exploiting the victims, which include her son.
"The victims are simply figures for you; for us they are human beings," said Pilar Manjon of the Association for Victims of March 11, testifying before lawmakers. "For us, they have names and surnames."
Manjon, whose 20-year-old son, Daniel, was killed in the blasts, was dressed in black and her voice occasionally broke during her emotional testimony as she described the suffering of survivors and families of the victims. The bombs on 10 commuter trains in the Spanish capital killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800.
"Anyone of us could have traveled in those trains, anyone of us could have died in some of the scenes of horror," Manjon told a parliamentary commission investigating the attacks.
Manjon called for the creation of a commission of independent investigators with no political links to find out more about what happened before the attacks, including why police apparently didn't share and pursue tips from informers that might have prevented the bombings.
"We plead for a commission composed of people free of political interests that will tell us what happened," she said.
She said the victims were being used for political purposes, a reference to the allegations between Spain's two main parties over the response to the bombings.
"Victims don't understand about politics, and we demand you not to use us, not to manipulate us," she said. "You have turned us into pawns of a political game."
Previous hearings have often degenerated into political diatribes by the now-ruling Socialist Party and its conservative predecessor, the Popular Party.
The parliamentary commission is investigating whether the threat of Islamic terrorism might have been foreseen and how the government of former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar handled the early investigation.
Opponents claim his Popular Party tried to blame Basque separatists and conceal any Islamic link for fear it would hurt them in the elections three days after the blasts. Aznar went against public opinion to support the invasion of Iraq and deployed Spanish troops as part of the U.S.-led force after the invasion.
The 16-member panel investigating the bombings began its work in July and has heard from more than 50 former police and government officials on how the government handled the attacks and what warnings it had that Spain might be a target for Islamic militants.
The panel will now decide whether to wrap up the inquiry or call more people to testify.
Seventeen people have been jailed on provisional charges in relation to the bombings, which are blamed on Islamist militants with possible connections to the al-Qaida network.
Manjon denounced authorities and health officials for poor treatment of victims and their families. She also complained about the media's frequent use of images of victims and the bombings.
"We go back to chaos with those images," she said in tears. "Please stop selling us like a show."
The commission's representatives heeded Manjon's request not to be asked any questions. The panel also assured her that it would take her recommendations into account for its final report.
"Your criticism is totally fair," said Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the small United Left party.