Aznar 'wiped files on Madrid bombings'
All computer records in PM's office destroyed, says Zapatero
By Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Spain's former prime minister José María Aznar wiped all computer records at his office referring to the March 11 Madrid train bombings and the rest of his period of government, his successor José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said yesterday.
Mr Zapatero told a parliamentary commission on the bombings that he had no idea whether records were made of crisis meetings held at the prime minister's office after the attacks that killed 191 people, as computer hard-drives and security copies were wiped clean.
"There was nothing, absolutely nothing... everything had been wiped," Mr Zapatero told a raucous session of the parliamentary commission. "There is nothing from March 11 to March 14 in the prime minister's office."
Mr Zapatero, whose Socialists won a surprise election victory three days after the bombings, said the incoming government had been left the bill for the erasing.
The newspaper El País reported yesterday that the job cost €12,000 (£8,200) and included erasing all email records.
The only records handed to the incoming government were paper documents, the newspaper reported.
Mr Zapatero accused Mr Aznar's conservative People's party government of having tried to fool Spaniards into believing the armed Basque group Eta, not radical Islamists, carried out the attacks. "It was massive deceit," he said.
He said Mr Aznar's government began deliberately misleading Spaniards from the afternoon of the attacks, when police found that the explosives in the bombs were not, as suspected earlier in the day, of the kind habitually used by Eta.
Mr Zapatero said the attacks revealed a series of security failings that had allowed the Islamist bombers to plant a dozen bombs on the morning rush-hour trains.
He said a lack of coordination between Spain's two main police forces, failures in the control of mine explosives, and a lack of police dedicated to Islamist terrorism were to blame.
Mr Zapatero denied that his party had been involved in a series of angry, illegal protests outside People's party offices across Spain on the evening before his election victory.
The protesters, spreading the word by text messages, convened rallies at which they accused Mr Aznar's pro-US government of lying and of making Spain an al-Qaida target by backing the Iraq war.
"We did not know about, plan, participate in, instigate or support the demonstrations," Mr Zapatero said.
Eduardo Zaplana, the People's party's representative on the commission, accused Mr Zapatero of giving, at the least, implicit support to protesters.
"You still do not dare condemn such a shameful and anti-democratic act because you were the beneficiary of it," he said.
In a thinly veiled attack on his predecessor, who appeared before the same commission two weeks ago, Mr Zapatero condemned critics who accused Spaniards of cowardice for voting out the People's party.
"It is unacceptable... after the pain caused by the deaths and having been unable to prevent the murder of relatives, friends and fellow citizens, that a brave people should then suffer the infamy of being called cowards," he said.
Mr Zapatero, who stuck to an election pledge to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, accused Mr Aznar and the People's party of continuing their attempts to confuse Spaniards with recent claims that Eta must have helped the Islamists.
"They are trying to save face," he said. "The March 11 [attacks] were the sole responsibility of international Islamist terrorism."
He also presented the commission with two separate police reports discounting any ties between the Spanish dynamite traffickers who provided the explosives and Eta.
He said that, despite the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, he still considered Spain at risk from further attacks and said the country would fight the threat just as it had fought Eta's terrorism.