From Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
Friday, September 9, 2005 Posted: 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
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Manage Alerts | What Is This? MADRID, Spain (CNN) — A Spanish judge has filed preliminary charges of Islamic terrorist activity against a French woman of North African descent who already was serving time in Spanish prison for drug trafficking, a Spanish prison official told CNN.
The woman, identified only by her initials, M.H., is linked to the case of a man, Redouan Ben Fraima, arrested last March on suspicion of terrorism in an apparent failed plot to blow up a passenger ferry that crosses the Strait of Gibraltar, connecting Spain and North Africa, the official said Thursday.
Spanish authorities face several major terrorism cases — including the Madrid train bombings last year — and have increased surveillance in prisons, including regular sweeps of jail cells.
The effort aims in part to stymie any attempts to recruit terrorists in jail among prisoners serving time for common crimes, such as drug trafficking.
Both the woman and Ben Fraima, also of North African descent, were in Spanish jails for common crimes when authorities arrested them, separately, on the more serious charges of terrorist activity, the official said. The woman was arrested Wednesday.
The woman was born in 1981 in Paris. Last year she started serving a 3.5-year term for drug trafficking, and last Monday she was questioned in prison as a witness — not a suspect — in the Ben Fraima ferry-plot case, the official said.
But after «a series of contradictions» in her statements during the interrogation, the Spanish Civil Guard sent the details to the National Court, which handles terrorism cases, the Interior Ministry said Thursday in the statement that announced the woman’s arrest.
On Thursday, Civil Guards and a court-appointed attorney went to the Zuera prison in northern Zaragoza province, where the woman is serving time, to inform her of the preliminary charges placing her under official investigation in the terrorism case, the prison official said.
The woman initially was arrested last year in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Morocco’s north coast.
It was also in Ceuta where Ben Fraima was in jail for a common crime — which the prison official could not specify — when last March, during a routine sweep of his jail cell, authorities found documentation about the ferry that sails between Ceuta and the Spanish mainland town of Algeciras, and about a substance that could be used to make explosives.
A judge then filed preliminary charges of terrorism against him, the prison official said.
The biggest terrorism case in Spain concerns the Madrid train bombings last year that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500. Authorities blame Islamic terrorists. More than 100 people have been charged and indictments are expected soon, with a trial to follow.
Separately, a verdict is expected soon in the trial, which concluded last July, of 24 al Qaeda suspects, including three men charged with a planning role in the September 11 attacks.
A third major case involves more than a dozen suspects in a failed plot to attack other targets in Spain, including the National Court with a truck bomb. Some of the suspects in that case were allegedly recruited in prison.
Spanish police have arrested 50 people this year alone on suspicion of Islamic terrorist activity, the Interior Ministry said.
From Al Goodman