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Madrid terror defendant walks free

Story Highlights

• All charges against Moroccan-born Brahim Moussaten, 23, dropped Monday
• That leaves 28 defendants on trial for the 2004 bombings
• 191 people died in the commuter train bombings; 1,824 people were injured
From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- One of the 29 defendants in the Madrid train bombings trial has been cleared of all charges and is now a free man, his lawyer and a court spokeswoman says.

Prosecutors Monday dropped all charges against the man, Moroccan-born Brahim Moussaten, 23, who could have been sentenced to six years in prison if convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group, the spokeswoman told CNN Wednesday.

Numerous private lawyers who represent individual victims or groups affected by the attacks also declined to press charges against him. The court late Monday announced he was a free man.

That leaves 28 defendants on trial, including eight prime suspects who each face sentences of nearly 39,000 years in prison if convicted of mass murder of the 191 people who died in the 2004 commuter train bombings and the attempted murder of 1,824 people who were injured. But Spanish law sets a maximum of 40 years in prison no matter what the sentence, and there is no death penalty.

The other defendants face far smaller sentences if convicted on lesser charges such as membership in or collaboration with a terrorist group.

Most of the defendants are Moroccans, and prosecutors blame the train bombings on Islamic terrorists. But there are also nine Spaniards on trial, accused of providing stolen explosives that were used in the attacks.

Moussaten allegedly had helped two suspects to escape after the attacks -- one who is now a defendant in the trial and another who is believed to have died in Iraq as a suicide bomber.

But the prosecution, having analyzed evidence and testimony during the trial, now in its fifth month, on Monday submitted in court a revised list of charges against various defendants. They dropped charges against Moussaten for lack of evidence, and increased the charges and potential prison for others.

Moussaten plans to sue Spain for unspecified damages because of the six months he served in jail after his arrest and before the trial began -- but he must wait until after a verdict in the trial, which is expected in the autumn, said his lawyer, Eduardo Garcia Pena.

Moussaten has been free on 1,200 euros ($1,560) bail and has been attending the trial, sitting in open court, not in a bullet-proof glass enclosure, like 19 of the defendants facing more serious charges. He may now return to his job working in a fruit warehouse, Garcia Pena said.

Moussaten's brother, Mohamed Moussaten, 22, remains on trial, facing eight years if convicted of collaborating with terrorists.

The Moussaten brothers' uncle, Youssef Belhadj, is also on trial, as an accused mastermind of the bombings, and could be sentenced to about 39,000 years for mass murder if convicted.

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