Wikileaks

Un topo evitó un 11M en Barcelona

Cable sobre la sentencia de la 'operación Cantata'

  • Hace referencia a un eventual recurso al Supremo por parte de los acusados y predice una reducción de la condena.
  • Dicha reducción se produjo el pasado mes de enero.
  • El alto cargo de la embajada cree necesario "limitar el margen de interpretación de los jueces" en los casos de terrorismo islamista.
ID:
241284
Etiquetas:
PGOV, PINS, PTER, KJUS, SP
Fecha:
2009-12-22 16:38:00
RefID:
09MADRID1207
Origen:
Embassy Madrid
Clasificación:
CONFIDENTIAL
Destino:
08MADRID1214
08MADRID1269
08MADRID73
09MADRID1124
09MADRID505
Encabezado:
VZCZCXRO3135
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHMD #1207/01 3561638
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221638Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1589
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1551
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 2537
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA PRIORITY 4274
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 001207

SIPDIS

[eliminado por 20minutos.es]

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PINS, PTER, KJUS, SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: AL-QAIDA TIES EMERGE IN TRIAL FOR PLOT
AGAINST BARCELONA SUBWAY

REF: A. 08 MADRID 73
B. MADRID 505
C. 08 MADRID 1214
D. 08 MADRID 1269
E. OSC EUP20091215950011
F. MADRID 1124

MADRID 00001207 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: CDA Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The National Court delivered a
stronger-than-expected verdict on December 14 when it
convicted all 11 defendants arrested in the "Operation
Cantata" case to between 8.5 - 14.5 years imprisonment for
membership in a terrorist organization. Authorities arrested
the cell members in January 2008 before they could finalize
their plot to attack the Barcelona metro system (Ref A) in
response to the Spanish military presence in Afghanistan.
One of the highlights of the trial was the surprise testimony
by the government's star witness, a member of the Barcelona
cell before he turned on his colleagues, that he has been a
member of Al-Qaida (AQ) since 2005. The trial was arguably
the most high-profile one against radical Islamic terrorists
in Spain since the 2007 trial of the Madrid train bombers.
The strength of the verdict, which a leading
counter-terrorism (CT) expert attributes to the presiding
judge, is surprising for two reasons: it contrasts with a
series of acquittals by the Spanish judiciary in recent
radical Islamic terrorism cases (Refs B and C) and there was
a widely held view that the evidence in this particular case
was weak. Press reports indicate the defendants, all of whom
proclaim their innocence, plan to appeal the ruling.

2. (C) Meanwhile, the convictions - and recently announced
plans by the Defense Minister to increase Spain's military
presence in Afghanistan by 50 percent - occur against the
backdrop of the November 29 kidnapping of three Spanish NGO
workers in Mauritania by Al-Qaida in the Mahgreb (AQIM),
which in its communique claiming responsibility has indicated
that it may seek a prisoner exchange. END SUMMARY.

//The Case//

3. (SBU) As a response to Spain's military presence in
Afghanistan, the cell allegedly was plotting to conduct an
underground attack in the Barcelona subway system, a target
which reportedly was chosen because it would be difficult for
first-responders to access. A spokesman for Tehrik e Taliban
Pakistan (TTP), a Pakistani terrorist group with links to AQ,
would then issue a series of demands, which, if not met,
would lead to a series of other attacks in France, Germany,
Portugal and the UK. The plot fell apart when a cell member
who arrived in Barcelona from Paris was informed that a phone
call he just made to his family would be his last because he
had been selected to be a suicide bomber. The cell member
got cold feet and made a private phone call that alerted
security forces, which immediately arrested the group.

4. (C) Cantata has become synonymous with the GOS's policy of
"preventative justice" (Refs C and D). On November 17,
midway through the trial, Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza,
spoke at closed-door CT conference co-sponsored by Embassy
Madrid, where he touted Cantata as an example of the
preventative justice policy's success in keeping Spanish
citizens safe. Nevertheless, Operation Cantata has been
controversial from the moment it was conducted due to the
scant explosives (18 grams, less than one ounce) found in the
group's possession, the conflicting statements from Spanish
and Catalan authorities regarding the cell's timeline for an
attack, and doubts about the cell's links to foreign
terrorist groups. As early as March 2008, Vicente
Gonzalez-Mota, the National Court prosecutor in the case,
told The New York Times that the evidence in the case was
weak and in October 2008 he privately predicted to POLOFF
that some of the defendants might be released after just
three years in prison. (See Ref D). On November 16, CT
expert [eliminado por 20minutos.es] privately told POLOFF that [eliminado por 20minutos.es] did not expect

MADRID 00001207 002.2 OF 003

a strong verdict because [eliminado por 20minutos.es] did not think the evidence in the
case was strong. [eliminado por 20minutos.es]' remarks likely represented the
consensus view among both CT watchers and the general public
as the case went to trial.

//The Trial//

5. (SBU) The trial was held during November 12 - 24.
Gonzalez-Mota originally asked for jail sentences ranging
from 9 - 18 years for the defendants (10 of Pakistani origin
and one born in India), whom he charged with membership or
leadership in a terrorist organization and - for two
individuals - possession of explosives. His strategy largely
hinged on the testimony of the cell member who got cold feet
who later agreed to serve as a government-protected witness
known as "F1" in court proceedings. The other key evidence
the prosecution used was the publicly available video in
which TTP claimed responsibility for the cell's activities,
jihadist propaganda material seized in the raid, and
bomb-making components, such as timers, batteries, cables,
latex gloves and steel pellets to serve as shrapnel.
Officials from Spain's Civil Guard (GC) and National
Intelligence Center also testified, asserting that the cell
was only at the stage of conducting tests for its attack.

6. (SBU) Prior to the trial, the indictment and all of the
public discussion about the cell's foreign links had focused
exclusively on TTP. It was therefore a surprise when F1
testified that he has been a member of Al-Qaida since 2005
and that he traveled from Paris to Barcelona under orders
from an AQ official in Paris. F1 testified that he spent a
year and a half undergoing training in AQ camps in Pakistan,
taking weapons training, the manufacturing of explosives, and
"brainwashing." F1 added that he has never faced charges for
his membership in AQ. In Paris, he reportedly formed part of
AQ's finance network. Given the chance to renounce his ties
to AQ during cross-examination, F1 reportedly did not do so,
replying cryptically, "I can only say that I have come to
tell the truth to the judges and they will be the ones who
decide who I am now."

7. (C) Gonzalez-Mota did not initially file charges for
plotting a terrorist attack, however late in the trial,
reportedly emboldened by the testimony of GC officials, he
decided to seek convictions against the defendants on these
charges. With the new charges added, the defendants faced
17-26 years in prison if convicted on all accounts. [eliminado por 20minutos.es] one of Spain's most
recognized CT experts, attended nearly all of the trial.
Asked if these new charges were a last-minute surprise,
[eliminado por 20minutos.es] replied that, on the contrary, the new charges were
the "logical conclusion" to the cumulative testimony and
evidence presented throughout the trial.

//The Verdict//

8. (SBU) The National Court on December 14 convicted all 11
defendants for membership in a terrorist organization and two
of the defendants also were convicted for possession of
explosives (Ref E). Shahib Iqbal and Qadeer Malik received
14.5 years for membership in a terrorist group and possession
of explosives. Maroof Ahmed Mirza, an imam who served as
spiritual leader of the group, received 10.5 years for
leadership of a terrorist organization while the remaining
defendents received sentences of 8.5 years for membership in
a terrorist organization. The Court ruled that the
defendants decided to follow the teachings of then TTP leader
Baitullah Mehsud, whose group has ties to AQ, which led the
cell to contact TTP and to preprare to carry out an attack
with explosives against the metro system. The ruling added
that the "indiscriminate" nature of the cell's planned attack
and the large number of potential victims are evidence of the
group's terrorist character. In issuing the ruling, the
judges viewed the TTP videotaped claim of responsibility to
be legitimate because the number of operatives cited was

MADRID 00001207 003.2 OF 003

consistent with the number in the Cantata cell and because no
other attack is known to have been planned in Barcelona
during that time.

9. (SBU) The Court acquitted all of the defendants of the
charge of plotting to commit a terrorist attack, ruling that
although the cell had agreed in general to conduct an attack,
a specific plan had not yet been formed for the exact date
and location of the attack.

10. (C) [eliminado por 20minutos.es] spoke at length with POLOFF on the day the
verdict was announced. [eliminado por 20minutos.es] attributes the strength of the
verdict to the fact that Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez led the
three-judge panel that heard the case. [eliminado por 20minutos.es] suggested
that current CT legislation gives a lot of leeway to the
judges in how to determine if a crime has been committed. In
some instances, such as the trials in the Operations Nova and
Tigris cases (Refs B and C), the judges have been more
lenient in their rulings. However, [eliminado por 20minutos.es] asserted that
Gomez Bermudez - who presided over the trials for the Madrid
train bombings and the original Al-Qaida in Spain cell among
others - "gets it" in terms of the threat that radical
Islamic terrorism poses and is more inclined to assign
harsher penalties.

//Outlook and Implications//

11. (C) The verdict in this case was stronger than was
largely expected. It contrasts with a series of acquittals
by the Spanish judiciary in recent radical Islamic terrorism
cases, and there was a widely held view that the evidence in
this particular case was weak. The defendants, all of whom
proclaim their innocence, plan to appeal the ruling to the
Supreme Court, which has a history of overturning lower court
convictions in radical Islamist terrorism cases. The Supreme
Court's eventual verdict will be the real test of the
strength of this case. Meanwhile, Spain is in the process of
creating a range of new terrorism-related offenses which
should strengthen its ability to prosecute radical Islamic
terrorism in future cases and limit the margin of
interpretation that individual judges have. In fulfillment
of the Council of Europe's 2008 Agreement on the Prevention
of Terrorism, Spain's Council of Ministers in November
approved legislative reforms to criminalize such offenses as
inciting terrorism and recruiting, training, indoctrinating
and financing terrorism. The proposal still requires
parliamentary approval to become binding law.

12. (C) The verdict also occurs against the backdrop of
AQIM's kidnapping of three Spanish NGO workers in Mauritania.
(COMMENT: Spain's Ambassador to Mauritania is Alonso
Dezcallar, brother of the Spanish Ambassador to the U.S.).
AQIM, which in 2009 killed a British hostage when HMG did not
meet the group's demands, has hinted that it is interested in
a prisoner exchange to secure the release of its "brothers"
in Spanish jails. AQIM has posted a message stating, "Your
security and your citizens depend on the safety and security
of our citizens. We will do everything possible to save our
hostages who are being tortured in your jails." Spanish
press reports from prior to the Cantata verdict suggest there
are roughly 65 radical Islamic terrorists in Spanish jails,
the majority of whom are from Algeria (many of whom belonged
to a forerunner to AQIM), although there are also numerous
Moroccans and Tunisians.

13. (C) There is widespread speculation that AQIM could also
demand that the GOS, which in November reportedly facilitated
the largest-ever ransom to Somali pirates to free the crew of
a Spanish fishing vessel (Ref F), pay a sizable ransom and/or
withdraw Spanish forces from Afghanistan. Defense Minister
Chacon's December 17 announcement that the GOS will seek to
raise its ISAF troop levels from roughly 1,000 to more than
1,500 signals that the GOS is not considering a drawdown in
its troop levels in Afghanistan. [eliminado por 20minutos.es] privately predicts
a long, drawn-out kidnapping in which AQIM uses the hostages
for maximum propaganda and economic gain.
CHACON;"