Word on the street at the time was that the group of bombers was heavily infiltrated -- dare we say "provoked"? -- by Spanish and Madrid police. Rumors circulating openly said the police infiltrators had provided the bombs, the expertise -- everything except for the patsies who would be blamed for the crimes.
The motive? The Spanish government was in trouble with elections approaching. Why? For sending troops to Iraq, despite intense public opposition to the move. And the result? The government was defeated anyway, quite possibly because an enormous segment of the voting public knew (or at any rate believed) that the government had been behind the bombings.
As for the patsies, if that's what they were, seven of them (including the alleged mastermind) were killed in a very convenient explosion in April of 2004, just as the Spanish police were closing in on them, according to the BBC. But have no fear! Twenty-nine suspects remain; they and the alleged evidence of their alleged crime will be on display in the Greatest Show Trial Ever Staged.
Six suspects -- five Moroccans and a Syrian -- are each charged with 191 counts of murder and 1755 counts of attempted murder. A seventh suspect -- a Spaniard -- is charged with 192 counts of murder and 1755 counts of attempted murder. In addition to these charges -- as if 13,623 charges weren't enough -- an additional 22 suspects face lesser charges, including collaborating with a terrorist group and handling explosives. The indictment itself runs more than 100,000 pages, the main suspects each face a total of 38,000 years in prison, and this combination of circumstances could possibly induce a cynical observer to wonder whether the prosecution might be trying to substitute quantity for quality.
It's not as if it doesn't matter. The whole country will be watching, or at least that's the plan:
This is Europe's biggest-ever trial of alleged Islamic militants, says the BBC's Danny Wood in Madrid.So when I called it a "Show Trial", I meant it in the finest sense of the word.
It is expected to last several months and hear from hundreds of witnesses and police experts.
All of Spain will have the chance to assess the evidence, our correspondent adds, in what will be a very public and high-tech trial.
The legal documents have been digitised and are being projected on to screens during the court sessions, which are being broadcast live on television, radio and over the internet.
There's No Business Like Show Business!
On With The Show, This Is It!
We've Got A Really Big Shew!!
Why not turn it into a national party? Just because the bombings didn't get the government re-elected, that's no reason not to make a great big deal out of it.
On With The Show by all means!
But don't forget to turn on the Scream Machine first.
On Tuesday Spanish officials raised the country's security alert level from low to medium ahead of the trial and the third anniversary of the attacks on 11 March.And rightly so. We wouldn't want to have a party without a security hassle.
Extra police will be stationed at key public areas while the elevated alert is in place, the interior ministry said.
Regardless of the evidence, regardless of the plausibility, regardless of anything else, the format of this trial sends a clear message to those who criticize the American approach of holding terror-related trials in secret. What's the message? "WATCH THIS!!"
Why are they doing this? Perhaps the Spanish government, knowing that its people know (or suspect), and sensing that this may be their last chance to maintain any semblance of legitimacy, are shifting into full-catapult mode, hoping to make the propaganda stick; it's now or never. In which case this trial represents one last stab at credibility.
Whereas perhaps the American government no longer cares about legitimacy or credibility. "You can't stop us," they say.