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Viewing cable 09MADRID255, SPAIN: STATUS REPORT ON YARKAS, JAILED AL QAEDA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MADRID255 2009-03-09 17:05 2010-12-23 12:12 SECRET Embassy Madrid
VZCZCXRO6049
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMD #0255/01 0681703
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 091703Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0358
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNSTF/TERRORISM FINANCE PRE NOTIFICATION COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3886
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000255

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (CORRECT PARA NUMBERS)
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE AND EEB/ESC/TFS,
NSC FOR E.FARR,
TREASURY FOR IA/OEE:W.LINDQUIST
TREASURY ALSO FOR TFFC DFERNANDEZ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2024
TAGS: EFIN PTER KTFN SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: STATUS REPORT ON YARKAS, JAILED AL QAEDA
CELL LEADER

REF: A. 08 MADRID 490
B. 08 MADRID 522
C. 08 MADRID 526
D. 08 MADRID 757
E. 08 MADRID 294
F. OSC: EUP20090106178004

MADRID 00000255 001.4 OF 002


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Arnold A. Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b),
(c) and (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY: This cable provides an update on recent
Embassy attempts to engage the GOS on designation of Imad
Eddin Barakat Yarkas, aka "Abu Dahdah," the convicted leader
of the Al Qaeda (AQ) cell in Spain. The issue remains
unresolved, and has taken a twist following allegations
beginning in April 2008 that Yarkas was involved in financing
terrorism from his jail cell during 2006-07. A three
judge-panel in July 2008 suspended the prosecution of the
case, which was formally closed in December 2008. However,
the Spanish magistrate who presided over Yarkas's original
trial recently hinted to Embassy officials that GOS
investigations of Yarkas - whether for the purposes of
suspicious transactions or for broader reasons - are either
ongoing or may soon be resumed. END SUMMARY.

//Background on Yarkas//

2. (S) As reported in REFTELS, Yarkas has been in a Spanish
prison since his November 2001 arrest. He was convicted in
2005 and sentenced to 12 years for membership in a terrorist
organization and to 15 years for conspiring to commit
terrorist murder on 9/11/2001, although in 2006 the Supreme
Court, citing lack of admissible evidence, overturned the
latter conviction. Despite the Supreme Court's action,
Magistrate Javier Gomez Bermudez, the President of the
National Court's Criminal Chamber who presided over the
three-judge panel that heard Yarkas's trial in 2005,
reaffirmed - unsolicited - to POLOFF and LEGAT during a
private lunch on February 24 that Yarkas did meet with
Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh in 2001 as part of final
preparatory meetings for the 9/11 attacks, which he asserted
confirmed the links of Yarkas's cell to AQ and justifies the
original conviction. More recently, there have been sporadic
press reports for nearly a year on allegations that Yarkas
was involved in financing terrorism from his jail cell during
2006-07. This cable provides an update on Embassy Madrid's
extensive reporting on this allegation (See REFTELS A-D).

//Efforts to Convince GOS to Designate Yarkas//

3. (S) In 2009, Embassy Madrid has attempted to re-engage the
GOS on the years-long USG interest in having the GOS
designate Yarkas' assets. On January 15, an adviser to the
Deputy Interior Minister told POLOFF "You didn't hear it from
me, but the Ministry of Interior agrees completely that
Yarkas should be designated." The adviser suggested the
Embassy should approach the MFA on the matter. POLOFF and
Deputy ECON Counselor broached the issue on January 26 with
the MFA's Sub-Directorate General for International Terrorism
Issues. Acting Deputy Director Iago Losada claimed limited
knowledge of the issue, but said he would look into the
matter and also recommended that the Embassy approach the
GOS's National Center for Counterterrorism Coordination
(CNCA). In early February, the Embassy's Office of Regional
Affairs (ORA) raised the issue with the CNCA during a
regularly scheduled meeting. The CNCA official, however, was
evasive and exhibited telltale body language that expressed
the official's considerable unease with the topic, quickly
referring the Embassy back to the MFA. The Deputy ECON
Counselor followed up with Losada, who confirmed our
understanding of the designation process - the Ministry of
Interior gathers the information and passes the dossier to
the MFA for action, including notifying the UNSC and EU - but
was unable to state whether the MFA had received the
materials on Yarkas from the Interior Ministry. Losada
doubted that he would be able to find out anything more and
intimated that any further information on the case should
come from the CNCA.

MADRID 00000255 002.4 OF 002



// Case May Not Be Closed on Allegations that Yarkas Financed
Terrorism From Jail//

4. (U) As indicated in REFTEL F and the February 13 edition
of leading news magazine, El Tiempo de Hoy, a three-judge
panel -- comprised of Felix Alfonso Guevara, Maria de los
Angeles Angeles Barreiro, and Clara Eugenia Bayarri -- in
December 2008 closed the case of Yarkas's involvement in
financing terrorism from his jail cell, arguing that the
transactions in question were merely the actions of a former
Yarkas co-defendant, Brassam Dalati, breaking off all
financial links to Yarkas. In closing the case, the panel
accused the Spanish National Police and an investigating
judge of having brought forward a sloppy case and even of
having trumped up the charges of terrorism finance while
ignoring exculpatory evidence.

5. (S) On February 24, POLOFF and LEGAT raised the subject -
among others - during lunch with Magistrate Gomez Bermudez,
who surprised them by indicating that he was personally
involved in investigations into Yarkas's financial
activities. The magistrate's opinion was that the terrorism
finance case described in Para 5 should not have been closed.
He indicated that he believed another judge had committed
judicial mistakes in his or her handling of the case, which
has prompted Gomez Bermudez to look into the issue. Gomez
Bermudez politely indicated to POLOFF and LEGAT that it would
be inappropriate for him to speak further about the topic,
which they understood to mean that the investigation had been
or may be re-opened.

//What's In Store for Yarkas//

6. (S) Gomez Bermudez stated that Yarkas will serve his full
12-year sentence and that his time served before the verdict
was announced does count towards his sentence, which means he
will be released in late 2013. As a convicted terrorist, he
does not qualify for any work-release program or time off for
good behavior. (COMMENT: The Spanish judiciary has updated
its laws on this issue in part to prevent a similar situation
to the 2008 release of Jose Ignacio "Inaki" de Juan Chaos, a
high-profile and unrepentant convicted murderer from the
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist group. De
Juana Chaos only spent 18 years behind bars after receiving a
symbolic sentence of more than 3,000 years - even though by
law the most that anyone can serve is 30 years. END
COMMENT.) Asked if Yarkas had ever expressed any remorse or
regret for his actions, Gomez Bermudez responded that not
only had Yarkas not done those things, but he also remains
very antagonistic to prison guards and GOS officials,
speaking to them in a very vicious way. The magistrate
further remarked that, as a naturalized Spanish citizen,
Yarkas will not be deported after completing his sentence and
will be free to live in Spain if he so chooses. If so, Gomez
Bermudez suggested Yarkas would likely be monitored by GOS
security services.
CHACON