Friday, December 15, 2006

March 11th....Two For The Road

A conspiracy theories double whammy before I disappear for my winter break. The promoters of these theories about the Madrid bombings have created fresh headlines in Spain recently, after the quiet period we had enjoyed while the “Boric acid” case bounced from judge to judge. That particular case is still going on, although the judge in charge made a procedural error in her instruction of the case and has had to repeat part of the process.

There are two stories which have recently been floated by El Mundo as part of their continuing and determined attempt to undermine the judicial investigation and pending trial of those accused of the bombings. The first of these “exclusives” took a very dramatic turn which has resulted in several people being imprisoned pending further investigation of their activities.

The story concerned an ongoing investigation into police corruption involving drug trafficking and attempts to traffic explosives. The case first emerged in August this year with the discovery near Madrid of some stolen explosives. The case ended up in the hands of the same investigating magistrate who handled the train bombings investigation, Juan del Olmo. Something about the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the explosive didn’t convince the investigating team, and their suspicions focused on a couple of the police officers involved in the case. So they decided to monitor the activities of the officers involved, including tapping their phones.

For reasons which will become clear below, El Mundo heard about the case and decided that given the right interpretation they could situate the story within their conspiracy theories about March 11th. There were two key elements to their story; the stolen explosive was GOMA 2 ECO (the same as that used in the train bombings), and at least one of the police officers under investigation had been stationed in the Vallecas police station where they discovered the device from the trains that did not explode, and which gave the police their first leads. There is not much there, the stolen explosive was not from the same batch or place as that used in the train bombings, and the events under investigation took place over two years later.

That, of course, is not how El Mundo presented the story and you need to switch into conspiracy theorist mode to see their angle. The conspiracy theorists maintain that the unexploded bomb found in Vallecas was planted by the true authors of the bombings, and was therefore never on the trains. They also claim that there is no proof that the explosive found in this bomb, GOMA 2 ECO, was the same as that used in the bombs that did explode. Then to give the story a final twist, they claimed that the latest discovery of stolen dynamite was only 2 minutes by car from the flat in Leganés where several members of the group accused of the bombings committed suicide after being surrounded by the police. That’s a very crafty description because it wrongly suggests that the discovery was made very close to the flat, and the Leganés suicide is also seen as a setup by those who want us to see a grand conspiracy behind it all.

Anyway, as a result of El Mundo printing this story the case under investigation had to be swiftly concluded, because the newspaper had blown the undercover operation. Here came the surprise, because those arrested did not just include those accused of corruption and trafficking; two other police officers were arrested under suspicion of revealing secrets, i.e. feeding information about the case to El Mundo. Judge del Olmo included, in his summary of the accusation, details from phone conversations between these officers and the El Mundo journalist. These conversations revealed how the El Mundo journalist promised the officers feeding him the information that the story would be front page news and would make a lot of noise. Another telling detail from the recorded calls was that El Mundo deliberately delayed publication of the story so that it wouldn't overshadow the anti-government demonstration called by the Association for Victims of Terrorism.

El Mundo have protested about the arrests claiming that "talking to a journalist" was a perfectly innocent activity for the police officers involved. Angel Acebes of the Partido Popular was quick to echo this claim, lightly skipping over the fact that El Mundo had knowingly disrupted an active investigation into police corruption just so that they could publish a story on the Madrid bombings. The boric acid case raised serious questions about whether the newspaper had crossed the line and begun to interfere directly with the judicial process; this case confirms that this has happened. The difference is that this time they have been found out, and in the process have probably lost a key informant inside the police force.

Undeterred, El Mundo returned to the attack a few days ago by claiming that former Socialist minister Rafael Vera gathered information from his contacts in the days immediately after the bombings and fed this to his party colleagues. He is alleged to have done this from an office ceded to him for this purpose by the regional president of Extremadura. Now Vera has form, literally. He has been in prison for his role in the GAL, the group (set up in the 1980's when Felipe Gonzalez was Prime Minister) which set about eliminating Basque activists related to ETA as part of a dirty war.

This is where the personal and the political start to mix, because Pedro J Ramirez (director of El Mundo) and Vera are sworn enemies. Both Vera and the outgoing president of Extremadura's government have denied the claims, and El Mundo have not produced a single fact to prove them, not much change in their behaviour there. Mixing Vera into the story allows the conspiracy theorists to pursue another of their favourite themes, that the Madrid bombings were the product of what would have to be a very bizarre alliance between the GAL and ETA! Conspiracy theorist in chief Luis del Pino was not slow to suggest, naturally with absolutely no evidence, that Vera was really coordinating the actions of the conspirators as they planted their faked evidence pointing to Islamist authorship of the bombings.

So it goes on, the completely shameless abuse of the Madrid bombings and its victims for political, commercial and probably personal motives. If only El Mundo, del Pino, Losantos and their friends could have found a more harmless way of seeking their revenge.

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