It happened first in sunny Spain: The first known indictment against Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks. Like Germany, Spain was a staging ground for the attacks. Along with Germany, Spain is known to have been an important staging ground for the Sept. 11 attacks. Accused ringleader and suicide pilot Mohamed Atta visited Spain in July 2001 and is believed to have held a key planning meeting with other participants in the northeastern Spanish region of Tarragona. Spain’s leading investigating judge issued the indictment, accusing al-Qaida of using the country as a base to plot the devastating strikes on New York and Washington.

Investigative magistrate Baltasar Garzon indicted 35 people for terrorist activities connected to bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

In a nearly 700-page document, Garzon wrote that Spain served “as a place or base for resting, preparation, indoctrinating, support and financing” of al-Qaida.

The indictment charged bin Laden and nine others with membership in a terrorist organization and “as many crimes of terrorist murder … as there were dead and injured” in the deadly Sept. 11 attacks.

Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, is under indictment in the United States for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and is the object of a manhunt by thousands of U.S.-led coalition troops and Afghan forces.

Justice Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government did not play a direct role in the Spanish indictment. But the officials did say that the United States and its European allies have been sharing vast amounts of information on al-Qaida and the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks. Some of that may have been used to build the case in Spain.

There are no indications that U.S. prosecutors will seek an indictment of bin Laden in the Sept. 11 attacks any time soon. U.S. officials believe they have the legal tools necessary to arrest him with the existing indictment in the 1998 embassy bombings as well as the Defense Department’s authority to detain enemy combatants.

Garzon said terrorism is one of the crimes included in Spain’s universal justice legislation, under which some offenses, such as crimes against humanity, can be tried here even if they were committed elsewhere.

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