MADRID: An Egyptian accused of being a mastermind of the Madrid train bombings denied Monday that his voice is the one heard in a wiretapped telephone conversation in which prosecutors say he claimed the attacks were his idea.
That voice is not mine. I m not the person speaking, Rabei Osman said of the recordings as he took the stand for the second time in the trial over the March 2004 attacks, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.
Italian police arrested Osman in Milan, Italy, in June 2004, acting on a tip from their Spanish counterparts.
Italian prosecutors say that in a series of wiretapped conversations Osman tells an associate in Italy, I m the thread to Madrid; it s my work.
Osman told the three-panel judge overseeing the trial that the official translations of those Arabic-language conversations were inaccurate. He said there is no mention of anyone claiming the Madrid attack at any moment of the discussion between two men heard in the conversations.
The translations are 80 percent faulty, Osman said under questioning from his defense attorney. Osman and his lawyer got permission from the court to listen to the tapes with translators last week in order to prepare for questioning. The tapes were not played in court.
I never said something like this. I condemn this terrorist action, and I m against it in all its forms, he said. I never had any relation to the events which occurred in Madrid.
The trial of 29 suspects in the case began Feb. 15 and is expected to last at least five months.
Prosecutors are asking for prison sentences of 38,656 years for Osman and six other key suspects. However, under Spanish law, they can serve no more than 40 years behind bars if convicted.
Osman also said he had made comments over the phone with a friend in Belgium about the Madrid attacks, and that he was shocked to see mug shots of associates in Madrid on television and to realize that they were suspects in the case.
I was just commenting about the TV news. It doesn t imply that I had any relation with the attacks, Osman said. He said that when he made reference to our Madrid group, he did not mean the group was a terrorist one, just friends or acquaintances.
In his first day of testimony when the trial opened on Feb. 15, Osman said he had nothing to do with the massacre and condemned the attack unconditionally and completely. He also said he condemned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the London subway bombings of 2005.
Osman has also denied being a part of Al-Qaida or any other Islamic extremist group, and said he knew other alleged members of the Madrid bombing cell only as acquaintances at a mosque in the Spanish capital.