Egyptian convicted for Madrid bombings

Source: China Daily

An Italian court yesterday sentenced an Egyptian accused of being one of the masterminds of the 2004 Madrid bombings to 10 years in prison for terrorist association. Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, also known as "Mohamed the Egyptian," was arrested in Milan three months after the March 11, 2004 blasts that killed 191 people and wounded 2,000 others. He is the first suspected Madrid plotter to be convicted following the attacks.

"I'm ready to be convicted because we're in Italy.

This is a political case against Islam," Ahmed said before his sentence was read, according to Italian media. Prosecutors say Ahmed had close ties to the bombers and bragged in recorded conversations about how the rush-hour explosions on packed commuter trains were his idea.

But the head of the court said prosecutors did not need the Madrid evidence to convict Ahmed. They had also accused him of grooming young recruits, including one named Yahia Mouad Mohamed Rayah who was sentenced to 5 years in prison yesterday on terrorism charges.

The prosecutors also pointed to recordings in which Ahmed advocated jihad and cheered the execution of American hostage Nick Berg in Iraq. Ahmed was not in Spain during the attacks.

He arrived in Italy the previous December and had been working at odd jobs, including as a house painter, before his arrest.

Megale says Spanish police stumbled upon Ahmed when they found a copy of his Italian cell phone number during a probe into the chief suspects in Madrid. Italian police began taping Ahmed's conversations in April 2004.

Judicial sources have said Ahmed was trained as an explosives expert in the Egyptian army, but his lawyer said Ahmed only worked in an army office. He had argued that the case should have been tried in Spain - not Italy. The Italian verdict came ahead of a larger trial against 29 suspects in Spain set to begin in February.  

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