Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Teen sentenced over Madrid bombings

AFP , MADRID

The Spanish supreme court on Tuesday sentenced a teenager implicated in the March 11 Madrid train bombings to six years in youth detention after he pleaded guilty to handling explosives used in Spain's worst terrorist attack on the opening day of his trial.

The prosecution had originally called for an eight-year term in youth detention for the 16-year-old, who stood accused of transporting from northern Spain to the capital the explosives used in the attacks which left 191 people dead and almost 2,000 more injured.

Just prior to the trial of the youth, who appeared in court hidden by a screen, prosecutor Blanca Rodriguez lowered her initial demand to six years and his guilty plea saw proceedings completed within minutes.

The youngster, nicknamed El Gitanillo (the little gypsy), became caught up in the March 11 blasts as the accomplice of a former miner who turned to drug trafficking.

The adolescent admitted in court that he had helped transport explosives used in the coordinated bombing of four commuter trains at three Madrid train stations.

Radical Muslims affiliated with the al-Qaeda terror network claimed responsibility for the attacks, which the conservative Spanish government at the time initially blamed on Basque separatists.

Media were present at the trial but were not allowed either to publish the youth's name or take pictures.

Rodriguez said she was satisfied that the original eight-year term called for had been reduced as under that scenario the youth "would have had to be transferred to a penitentiary for adults."

That would not have benefited his eventual reinsertion into society on release, she added.

The teen was detained on June 16 on the same day as a former miner, who used him to carry explosives by bus from Asturias in northern Spain to Madrid, where he met up with radical Islamists who were plotting the attack.

In return, prosecutors allege, they provided drugs.

According to judicial sources, the 16-year-old was paid around 1,000 euros (US1,300) for his help which he admitted to investigators in pre-trial interviews.

The youth is one of 19 sus-pects held on suspicion of involvement in the attacks. Warrants have also been issued for six fugitive suspects.

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