Jose Maria Aznar was used to calling the shots and getting things done his way when he was the Prime Minister, but on Monday he was grilled for seven hours non-stop by the parliamentary inquiry into the March 11 bombings in Madrid. What the inquiry wants to find out is why the government immediately leapt to blame the armed Basque organisation ETA for the atrocity, and whether it manipulated information in the aftermath of the attack to keep ETA at the top of the list of suspects, despite evidence to the contrary.
The proceedings are being broadcast live on Spanish television, and viewers saw Aznar mount a robust defence of his government. “All terrorism is linked” he said in justification for suspecting ETA, which he believes colluded with Islamic extremists, a position that none of the security experts called before the inquiry so far have tried to maintain. “Who chose the 11th for such an attack,” he added, “so that terror would intrude on the political process?”. Aznar got support from a demonstration outside the court, where people agreed with his assertion that the Socialists took illegal electoral advantage of the bombings to snatch victory. Opinion polls before the vote said Aznar’s Popular party would be re-elected. There were opponents outside the court as well though, not ready to let Aznar forget their accusation that he and the government had lied to them.