A Spanish judge has charged a Moroccan man as an additional prime suspect in the Madrid train bombings, and ordered that he be brought to Spain from Morocco, where he is currently in jail on other charges.
The judge’s order on Wednesday comes as 29 defendants are currently on trial in Madrid for the attacks, including seven who are considered prime defendants for the mass murder of 191 people who died in the train bombings three years ago.
The latest suspect, Abdelilah Hriz, 29, would be the eighth prime suspect.
Spain, since 2005, has sought Hriz for suspected membership in an Islamic terrorist group, but on Wednesday, Judge Juan del Olmo — who led the investigation into the bombings but is not conducting the trial — added the charge of mass murder against Hriz.
This came after DNA tests indicated that Hriz was present at key locations associated with the bombings, including a rural lodging east of Madrid where prosecutors say the bombs were assembled, according to a copy of the court order viewed by CNN.
“The facts allow the consideration of Abdelilah Hriz as one of the alleged participants in the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004,” Judge Del Olmo wrote in the 13-page court order issued Wednesday.
Hriz is now wanted for the murders of 191 people, the attempted murders of 1,800 others wounded in the attacks and causing terrorist damage to the four morning rush-hour trains ripped apart by the bombs, the court order said.
In the train bombing trial that began February 15, the seven prime defendants are accused of similar charges and they each face 38,000 years in prison if convicted. The other 22 defendants on trial face prison terms of four to 27 years, if convicted for supporting roles.
Spanish authorities have long said that about a dozen terrorists placed the bombs aboard the trains. Ten of the bombs exploded, two other bombs were taken off the trains soon after and exploded by the police under controlled conditions, and a 13th bomb was defused by police, providing key clues about the attacks.
Prosecutors say the terrorists who placed the bombs aboard the trains include seven key suspects who blew themselves up three weeks after the attacks as police closed in on their hideout in the Madrid suburb of Leganes.
Judge del Olmo wrote that DNA samples now link Hriz to previously unidentified DNA samples at the Leganes hideout site, and also at the rural lodging near the village of Chinchon, where the bombs were thought to be assembled.
Among the seven prime defendants on trial, prosecutors accuse three of them of putting bombs on the trains; while three others are accused of being masterminds; and a seventh prime defendant is accused of trafficking in explosives used in the attacks.
There was no immediate word on how long it might take for Hriz to be extradited from Morocco to Spain.
Judge del Olmo issued indictments last year against the 29 defendants currently on trial, but in his order on Wednesday, he simply charged Hriz, a step short of an indictment. Hriz apparently would also need to be indicted before he, too, could stand trial.
Most of the 29 defendants on trial have now testified, professing innocence in the train bombings. The trial is being heard by a three-judge panel that does not include Del Olmo, whose role was to investigate and prepare the case for trial.
The trial must still hear from the rest of the defendants, and then from 600 witnesses. It is expected to last until the summer, with a verdict likely next autumn.