Coalition of the Candid

The Supreme Court of Spain today threw out a 9/11 conspiracy conviction after prosecutors acknowledged that the case against an Al Qaeda follower was weak. Think Zacarias Moussaoui without the confession and the political push to make him a scapegoat and the dilapidated case of Imad Yarkas is what you get.

Our ally in the war on terror, a nation in the "coalition of the willing," Spain took the extraordinary (and extraordinarily brave) action after local prosecutors conceded that the 9/11 conspiracy case against Yarkas was "inconsistence, almost nonexistent." Yarkas still will serve a lengthy prison sentence for a less significant conspiracy conviction but now the official and honest legal position of Spain is that he was not involved in specific planning for the terror attacks on America. Good for Spain.

So what was the evidence against Yarkas? How did he get in trouble in the first place? His telephone number was found in the Hamburg apartment of Mohamed Atta and he was heard in a wiretapped conversation speaking with another man about takign aviation classes. This, prosecutors would say later say after a trial judge convicted him last fall, showed him to be an "evil man" who embraced Al Qaeda but not a 9/11 planner.

Let's compare and contrast the history of Yarkas' case with that of Moussaoui, who last month was formally sentenced to life in prison here in America for whatever role he may have played in the 9/11 attacks. Instead of conceding that the links between Moussaoui and the 19 hijackers were tenous, at best, federal prosecutors in the United States did everything they could to try to portray Moussaoui as being at the center of the terror plot-- the key to unlocking the mystery before the attacks. But the only evidence of that at trial came from Moussaoui, a proven liar, who after his sentence conceded that he had been making it all up.

Of course there was slightly more incriminating evidence against Moussaoui than there was against Yarkas. Moussaoui attended flight school, for example, although he lasted only long enough to draw so much attention to himself that he got arrested about a month before the Twin Towers were felled. And Moussaoui did have some brief contact with high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives long before the late summer of 2001. But just as Spanish prosecutors ultimately had to admit that there was no proof that their guy planned or prepared for 9/11 federal prosecutors here ultimately will have to admit in a candid moment that they have nothing linking Moussaoui to the actual hijackers. In fact, the proof about Moussaoui goes in the opposite direction-- that even the hijackers and their leaders wanted nothing to do with a guy as obviously cracked as Moussaoui.

I'm sure the initial reaction will be to criticize the country for being "soft" in the war on terror. But let's give Spain credit for being faithful both to its laws and to the truth. It's not every day that a nation acknowledges its mistakes in achieving balance between the power of the state and the rights of its citizens.

By  |  June 1, 2006; 2:00 PM ET
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