Tight security surrounded the courthouse in Madrid’s Casa de Campo park as bereaved families and those injured packed the courtroom and cameras broadcast proceedings live.
Helicopters buzzed overhead while judges read out the charges against 19 north African men and nine Spaniards accused of helping plant 13 bombs on commuter trains early on March 11 2004.
The charges included 192 counts of murder, more than 1,800 of attempted murder and two counts of provoking abortions by women caught in the blasts.
Egyptian Rabei Osman, 34, was the first to be led out of a bulletproof glass box, known to court officials as “the fishtank”, where 18 of the accused sat. Osman, who was convicted of belonging to a terrorist group by an Italian court last year, was accused by prosecutors of being one of the masterminds behind the attacks.
When questioned by his defence lawyer, he protested his innocence. “I never had anything to do with the events in Madrid,” he said.
State prosecutors told the court that Osman had moved to Italy the week before the attacks. Police there had recorded his phone calls. “It was my project,” he said in one, referring to the bombings. “I was ready to become a martyr too.”