MADRID - They'd been longing for justice for more than three years and instead got what they called a gut punch of acquittals and convictions on lesser charges.
People who lost parents, children or spouses in the 2004 Madrid train bombings plan to appeal the verdicts and sentences handed down Wednesday by Spain's National Court.
"It was like a slap in our face," Jesus Abril, who lost his 19-year-old son Oscar, said of the verdicts.
Three Muslims were charged with masterminding the bombings of four crowded commuter trains at rush hour, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800. None was convicted of the main charge of mass murder, and one was acquitted altogether.
Two of those alleged ringleaders and two others also facing murder charges were convicted of the lesser charge of belonging to a terrorist organization. Rather than sentences of nearly 38,000 years as sought by prosecutors, some got terms of 12 years. And of nine Spaniards charged with supplying stolen dynamite for the attack in exchange for drugs and cash, five walked free. Altogether, of 28 people tried, seven were acquitted for lack of evidence.
Abril, 54, a former teacher, attended each of the 58 trial sessions, and was in court to hear the verdicts. He and others whose loved ones died in the explosions March 11, 2004, said they could not believe the decisions read by Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez.
"The general response was to think how easy, how cheap it is to kill in Spain," Abril said yesterday.
Abril represents the March 11 Association of Terrorism Victims.
Its president, Pilar Manjon, whose son was killed in the bombings, called the verdicts and sentences weak. "I don't like it that murderers are going free," she said Wednesday.