At least three suspected Islamists were Thursday arrested in Vitoria, the capital city of Spain's Basque region in the north of the country. The men were suspected of raising funds for armed jihad. Police said that they had also been distributing CDs and other propaganda material, including internet-downloaded MP3s of jihad preaching to local Muslims.
AKI and CNN state that the three men were all Algerians. Police had begun investigations of the three men in December 2007. The arrests took place today on the orders of the National Court in Madrid. The arrests, carried out by Basque police, took place at 4 am local time.
The distribution of material took place at two sites, police suggest. One of these was an apartment, and the other was a phone center, where those without fixed phones can call out or use the internet. One of the suspects worked at this center.
Items seized in the predawn raids included a laptop computer, two hard drives and around 30 CDs. The apartment that was raided was shared by the three detainees and a fourth individual. Documents seized from the apartment filled four boxes.
The three detainees were aged around 30 years old, and all are said to have convictions for minor offenses.
Later in the day, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said that the arrests were important because Islamist cells could easily graduate from "rites and faith" to violence.
We reported that 14 people, 12 of Pakistani nationality and two Indians, were arrested on Saturday, January 19 this year. Four of these were later released, but the remaining 10 were held in jail on the orders of a National Court judge. The Barcelona, Catalunya, arrests took place mainly in an unregistered Tablighi Jamaat mosque, and the suspects were thought to be planning explosions. In the Catalunya region, whose capital is Barcelona, more than 70 people have been arrested since 2003.
On February 8, a Moroccan man who is suspected of involvement in 9/11 was extradited to Spain from Britain. 39-year old Farid Hilali was arrested in south London in September 2003 on a Spanish extradition warrant from Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon. He has used Britain's legal appeal system to fight extradition. He had apparently called Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas by phone prior to the 9/11 attacks, in which mention was made of entering "the field of aviation" and "cutting the bird's throat."
Yarkas (aka "Abu Dahda") was sentenced to 27 years' jail on September 26 2005. He had been found guilty of conspiring to cause the attacks of 9/11. Yarkas was given 12 years' jail for leading a terrorist group, and 15 years for "conspiracy to commit murder". On February 16, 2006 Yarkas had his sentence reduced. On June 1, 2006 his sentence of "conspiracy to murder" was quashed . He still retained his sentence of 12 years for being a head of a terrorist organization.
The Spanish case against extradited Moroccan Farid Hilali (aka "Shakur") is weakened on account of Yarkas' sentence quashing, but there is apparently enough evidence to proceed against him with a case of membership in a terrorist group. On April 25, 2007, Hilali had been freed from his British jail.
In three weeks' time, on March 9, Spain will be going to the polls. The center-right Partido Popular (PP) party said earlier this month that if it should win the elections, it would impose a French-style ban of the Islamic headscarf in Spanish schools. The PP also said that Muslim girls in schools will have to accept examinations/treatment by male doctors, partaking in sports lessons and must attend school during menstruation.
On Wednesday February 6, the PP announced that all immigrants would be forced to sign a legally obligating docum