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Convicted members of ETA claim hey had no ties to commuter train bombings

Three convicted members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA testified at the Madrid terror trial that they had nothing to do with the March 11, 2004 commuter train bombings.

"I am not involved with March 11 or with the Islamists," one of them, Gorka Vidal, told the court, which is trying 29 suspects, mostly Moroccans, for Spain's deadliest terror attack.

"I shouldn't be here," he added.

Two other jailed ETA members, Irkus Badillo and Henri Parot, also denied any role in the attacks, which killed 191 people and injured about 1,800.

The three were called to testify by a lawyer for one of the prime suspects in the case, Jamal Zougam, in a bid to establish whether there was any links between ETA and the Islamist radicals who claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Vidal and Badillo were arrested Feb. 28, 2004 as they transported a van of explosives close to Madrid.

A day later, Islamic militants are believed to have set out from northern Spain with the explosives used in the March 11 attacks.

Parot, a French citizen serving a 5,000 year-sentence for 26 killings in a series of attacks, also denied any links between ETA and Islamic militants. He denied he had any special ties with Islamic prisoners.

Police have investigated Parot's possible links with radical Islamic militants after his name and others were found on a piece of paper belonging to an Algerian prisoner who was a friend of one of seven March 11 suspects who blew themselves up as police moved to arrest them three weeks after the train bombings.

Spain's leading right-wing opposition Popular Party has always insisted that ETA may have been linked to the attacks, despite the fact that police investigations established no such link.

The Popular Party was voted out of power in elections three days after the bombings. Many Spaniards felt the party had tried to fool them by blaming ETA and trying to dispel the idea that the attacks were revenge for the conservative government's unpopular decision to support the war in Iraq and later send troops there.

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