Police seek to extend detention of suspected members of terrorist cell

22nd January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Relatives and friends of those arrested claim they "did nothing wrong."

22 January 2008

BARCELONA/MADRID - Police on Monday sought permission from a judge to prolong to beyond 72 hours the detention of 14 suspected members of an Islamist terrorist cell arrested in Barcelona at the weekend.

The suspects, who police believe were planning to carry out attacks in Spain or another Western European country, are now likely to be held and interrogated until tomorrow when they will appear before a judge for a preliminary hearing. A search of five properties linked to the suspects, 12 Pakistanis and two Indians, turned up timers and a small quantity of an explosive known as "Satan's mother."

On Saturday, Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said the evidence suggests they were planning "violent acts." However, relatives and friends of many of the suspects have denied that the men are terrorists. Most are long-term Spanish residents, some are second-generation immigrants who were born here, and several have stable jobs.

"Why would my father want to blow himself up like they claim? He is retired after working 27 years in the same restaurant in Barcelona. Now he dedicates himself heart and soul to his religion. What is wrong with that?" says Nadim Ayub, whose father, 62-year-old Mohammed Ayub, is in custody.

Like the other suspects, Mohammed Ayub was arrested as he participated in a religious gathering at an unauthorised prayer hall on Hospital Street in the Raval district of Barcelona on Friday night. The people in attendance were all members of the Tabligh, a strict Muslim missionary movement that seeks to spread the faith. However, relatives and friends say that none of them are violent extremists and should not be in custody.

"[Mohammed Ayub] is a good man. He has been like a grandfather to us. When we saw how [the police] treated him we cried," says one of the daughters of Abdul Rahim, a 45-year-old Indian.

Rahim believes that he would also have been detained had he been in attendance when police raided the mosque. Instead, the delivery man was overseeing work on a property he owns. "I avoided arrest by a miracle," he says. Two young helpers of his who worked for tips, Abdul and Shahed, were arrested.

"They are well-meaning boys. They don't drink and they go to the mosque whenever they can," says Rahim. He noted that they lived in a shared apartment with another young man, Khalid, who "has nothing to do with the Tabligh" but who, he claims, was also taken into custody.

Another suspect, according to local residents, is Mahruf, who has a wife and four daughters, and who worked as a private tutor, teaching the Koran to children at home. His wife teaches Urdu and English. She is confident that the police and the courts will see that they have made a mistake.

"He has done nothing wrong and soon he will be free again," she says.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / JESÚS GARCÍA 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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