Spanish judge rules Catalonia attack suspects to go to trial
A Spanish judge investigating three men suspected of ties to last year’s double attack in Catalonia ruled Wednesday they should be sent to trial, accusing two of belonging to a jihadist cell.
The three are accused of links to the August 17 and 18, 2017 attacks on Las Rablas in Barcelona and the seaside town of Cambrils that left 16 people dead and 140 wounded.
In his ruling, Fernando Andreu, a magistrate at Spain’s National Court that investigates terror cases, concluded they were allegedly part of a radicalised group led by an imam.
He said the group aimed “to carry out attacks against those considered ‘their enemies’, which means the Western world.”
The suspects are Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 21, Driss Oukabir, 29 and Said Ben Iazza, 25.
The judge’s decision was one of the legal steps before any trial. They can now appeal the judge’s ruling. If unsuccessful, they will stand trial.
Mohamed Houli Chemlal, who survived a blast in the house where attackers were preparing explosives, is accused of forming part of a terror organisation and making, possessing and storing explosives.
Oukabir faces the same charges. He allegedly rented the van with which attacker Younes Abouyaaqoub rammed into pedestrians in the busy Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona.
After going on the run, Abouyaaqoub was shot dead by police four days later.
Ben Iazza, who allegedly lent his van and ID to the cell, is accused of collaborating with a terror group.
– Jihadist recruitment –
According to Andreu, the first two suspects and another seven youngsters of Moroccan origin who lived in the sleepy town of Ripoll in northern Catalonia were recruited by an imam called Abdelbaki Es Satty.
The imam died in the blast at the explosives house.
Their intention was to “carry out one or various large-scale attacks using explosive artifacts,” the judge said.
He said based on evidence uncovered by police, potential targets were the Eiffel Tower in Paris, FC Barcelona or Real Madrid stadiums, a popular theme park south of Barcelona, Granada’s famed Alhambra palace complex or the National Court.
But when the explosives accidently went off in the house, the attackers were allegedly forced to improvise other methods.
Abouyaaqoub drove a van into Barcelona on August 17, leaving 15 people of nine different nationalities dead in his wake, including an Australian boy aged seven and a three-year-old Spanish boy.
Hours later, five accomplices killed a woman in Cambrils in another attack before being shot dead by police.