(www.ap.org) вЂ" A trial into Spain's worst terrorist attack opened Thursday amid airtight security, with 29 suspects facing charges for the brutal 2004 bombings that killed 191 rush-hour commuters.
The case promises to be highly emotional, dredging up terrifying memories of one of Spain's darkest days. Some 100 experts and 600 witnesses are likely to be called, among them people who had their lives shattered in the Mar. 11, 2004, blasts, reports Trend.
"I hope justice is rendered and that there is a worthy sentence," Pilar Manjon, president of an association of March 11 victims, said before the proceedings got under way. She lost her 20-year-old son in the massacre.
Of the defendants, Manjon said: "I will look them right in the eye. They destroyed my life but they will not destroy me."
Seven lead defendants face possible jail terms of 30 years for each of the 191 killings and 18 years apiece for 1,820 attempted murders. But under Spanish law the maximum time anyone can serve for a terrorist conviction is 40 years. There is no death penalty in Spain.
The attack вЂ" involving 10 backpack bombs that ripped through four packed commuter trains вЂ" has been called modern Spain's most traumatic event since the Civil War of the 1930s.
The trial marks the culmination of a lengthy probe which concluded that the attack was carried out by a homegrown cell of Muslim extremists angry about the then-conservative Spanish government's support for the Iraq war. The cell was inspired by al-Qaida but had no direct links to it, nor did it receive financing from Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization, Spanish investigators say.
The proceedings will be held under tight security at a trade fair pavilion because the premises of the National Court, which handles terrorism cases, were deemed too small. Testimony is expected to last more than five months and a verdict is expected late October.
Spain has increased its terrorism alert level as a precaution for the trial's opening.
Among the top defendants are Rabei Osman, an Egyptian arrested in Italy in 2004 and considered one of the masterminds of the attack, and Moroccans Jamal Zougam and Abdelmajid Bouchar. Both are accused of planting some of the bombs.
The four other prime suspects include Spaniard Emilio Trashorras, a former miner who is accused of supplying the dynamite used in the massacre, and Youssef Belhadj, who prosecutors believe made such key decisions such as picking the day of the attack and giving the plotters last minute instructions. All 29 have pleaded not guilty.
Of 12 suspected ringleaders, only three will be in the courtroom. The rest are either dead or remain at large.
Survivors and relatives of those killed will have a separate room to watch the proceedings, and psychologists will be on hand to counsel them.