The Times (the chosen paper of the establishment) was, of course, at the forefront of the attacks on the Spanish legal system. One look at their piece told you all you needed to know:
After hitting the reader with the initial 'What the f*&k opening', purely designed to make you spit out your breakfast with disgust upon reading it, it then adds:
Twenty-one others were convicted of playing a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, though many of them on much lesser charges than the prosecution had sought.
Oh, so 21 were convicted?? That's pretty impressive. We have hardly convicted anyone. But, before you digest that:
Family members of the 191 people killed and 1,800 injured expressed astonishment, branding the sentences as lenient and feeble, and vowing to appeal.
"Bloody judiciary. Full of softy liberals."
"Didn't it say something about 21 convictions?"
"Brrrr, yes, but......"
Pilar Manjón, who heads the largest association of victims, said: “I don’t like to see murderers walk free.” She lost her 20-year-old son when ten bombs packed into sports bags and detonated by mobile phone ripped through four commuter trains.
"There, you see? Murderers walking free. Bloody disgrace."
"Yes, but the 21 convictions??"
It's interesting how it works. First the set-up, guaranteed to shock all those bowler hatted types eating their cornflakes. Then the tiny piece of fact that drops the anger down a notch, which is then quickly forgotten as the apocalyptic rage is cranked up several notches with talk of murderers being let off and the poor families that were affected. In the first four paragraphs, three are clearly designed to make you rage, while the other one is hidden amongst the anger so that it is broadly ignored by the red-faced establishment stooges settling down to their daily fix. And just in case you fail to grasp the subtle subtext of the piece, it blazes across the headline:
191 dead, thousands of victims - but the ‘mastermind’ is cleared
Well, that's clear then.
Thankfully, The Guardian's leader (a paper that has been as guilty of defending the establishment line as other papers) puts the trial into its proper perspective:
Nevertheless Spain's experience challenges Britain to do these things better than it has done so far. Our systems may not be the same - and the Spanish police also had some lucky breaks in their post-Madrid investigations. But there are important parallels too. Spain has deep historic links with the Islamic world, as we do. Spain had built up a strong corpus of laws during the Eta terrorist years, just as we did during the IRA ones. Yet, with all the provisos, Spain has managed to secure lawful convictions under these pre-existing laws without either legislative hyperactivity or threatening to do away with essential liberties. Suspects in Spain are rarely held for more than a maximum of 10 days without charge, compared with Britain's already draconian 28 days, which Gordon Brown now wants to increase. There are many differences between our situations, but Britain needs to learn a Spanish lesson.
Now the Spanish system is not perfect (far from it), but they have certainly dealt with this situation in a far better way than we have. Perhaps that is what really sticks in the throat of the establishment. Here are a people who bravely marched on the streets of every town and city in Spain in the aftermath of a horrendous terrorist attack to show their unity and strength. A people who had the temerity to kick out a government that lied about the bombings in the days leading up to the election. A people who dared to utilise their democratic rights. Clearly such people are to be condemned. Democracy should work for the establishment, not against it, right?