September 27, 2005

One Out of Three Ain't...

Hatched by Dafydd

...Well, it ain't good, actually.

Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters was the first I read to really pay attention to the al-Qaeda prosecutions in Spain. Yesterday, he wrote:

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.

Captain Ed goes on to quote from Daniel Woolls, of the Associated Press:

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.

So we had Yarkas, Chebli, and Ghalyoun on trial, plus twenty-one supernumeraries, groupies, minions, lickspittles, and hangers on. But the three named were the Big Kahunas.

And today, lo and behold, we have the verdicts. From the New York Times:

Spain Issues First Prison Sentence for 9/11
By Renwick McLean
Published: September 27, 2005

MADRID, Sept. 26 - A Spanish court on Monday sentenced a Syrian man to 27 years in prison for conspiring to commit the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and leading a cell of the terrorist network Al Qaeda in Madrid. The sentence is the only one to date in connection with the attacks.

"A Syrian man?" Uh-oh, this doesn't sound good.

In addition to the main defendant, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, 41, also known as Abu Dahdah, 17 other men were found guilty of either belonging to or aiding his terrorist cell. Those men, including Taysir Alony, a correspondent for the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera, received sentences of 6 to 11 years.

All right... what about the other two top dogs? What happened to Chebli and Ghalyoun?

Some analysts here hailed the verdict as at least a partial affirmation of the Spanish approach to fighting Islamic terrorism, which under Judge Baltasar Garzón has emphasized legal prosecutions over military action and intelligence gathering. "This is a clear sign that the rule of law has instruments that can be used to fight terrorism," said Jesús Nuñez Villaverde, director of the Institute for the Study of Conflicts and Humanitarian Action, a research group in Madrid. "It shows that there are effective methods that are not Guantánamo." [emphasis added]

We're very impressed. So what, exactly, did those brilliant and sensitive legal prosecutions in lieu of "military action and intelligence gathering" accomplish? What about Chebli and Ghalyoun? (Oh Lord, I sound like Al Gore: "What about Dingell-Norwood? What about Dingell-Norwood?")

Finally, ten paragraphs down, we finally get what Paul Harvey would have called the rest of the story:

In addition to Mr. Yarkas, two other men, Driss Chebli, a Moroccan, and Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, a Syrian, were accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot, but they were acquitted of the charges on Monday, although Mr. Chebli was convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group. [emphasis added]

And there we have it. We have located the distinction between the judicial approach, as advocated by John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and the Democrats -- and the military/intelligence approach, advocated by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and a cast of thousands of neocons... and of course, the president: the United States, Great Britain, the Iraqi Defense Force, and the rest of the Coalition of the Willing have netted thousands of members of al-Qaeda and personally introduced hundreds of top leaders to Allah... while the kinder, gentler Spanish Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), led by Jose Luis Rodriguez "I'm Not Aznar" Zapatero, managed to convict one big cheese, plus a bunch of other nonentities.

The biggest catch got a reduced sentence of twenty-seven years (prosecutors had asked for 72,000 years, which would possibly have kept him in prison for the rest of his life); and two of the big fish got away clean on the most serious charges, though one got a minor conviction that will probably have him out and about before the next Spanish elections.

Of course, Spain needn't feel lonely in the "I almost got a bad guy!" sweepstakes. They can drown their sorrows with Germany in a massive hasenpfeffer and paella pity party:

In August, Mounir el-Motassadeq, a Moroccan, was acquitted by a German court of complicity in the attacks, although he was found guilty of belonging to Al Qaeda. Mr. Motassadeq had previously been convicted of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot, but the decision was overturned last year after a court ruled he had been denied a fair trial because of the American refusal to allow testimony from Qaeda suspects in United States custody. [emphasis added]

(See? It's all America's fault.)

Yep, the Spaniards certainly showed us how to do things. I wonder if the Democrats in Washington D.C. will point with admiration in November 2006 to this less-than-spectacular result of the antiterrorism policies they advocate...?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2005, at the time of 4:05 AM

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I wrote yesterday before the Spanish trial judges announced their decision on their only 9/11 trial that the verdict had the possibility of demonstrating the invalidity of the conclusions reached by the 9/11 Commission. The Spanish court did just that,... [Read More]

Tracked on September 27, 2005 4:55 AM


The following hissed in response by: Angus Jung

I just wanted to say thanks for being a science fiction author who blogs and is not Cory Doctorow.

(Sorry for the off-topicness, but I couldn't find an e-mail address for you.)

The above hissed in response by: Angus Jung [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2005 8:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Milhouse

What about the possibility that the acquitted defendants were actually not guilty? Are you so familiar with the evidence that you can dismiss this possibility out of hand, and thus convict the judge or the system? Just asking.

The above hissed in response by: Milhouse [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2005 2:48 PM

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