Three men accused of having belonged to a jihadist cell which carried out a double attack that killed 16 people in Catalonia in 2017, or of having been accomplices, were sentenced, Thursday, May 27 in Spain, to sentences ranging from eight to fifty-three years in prison.
Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir, tried for belonging to this cell, were sentenced respectively to fifty-three and a half years and forty-six years in prison, while the prosecution had requested forty-one years and thirty-six years to against them. In its press release, the Madrid court of national hearing, responsible in particular for terrorism cases, however specified that their effective sentence “Would not exceed twenty years”.
The court, on the other hand, followed the prosecution with regard to Said Ben Iazza, sentenced to eight years in prison for having lent a vehicle and papers to the attackers.
The first attack took place on August 17 on the famous avenue des Ramblas in Barcelona, where a ram van had charged passers-by, killing 14 people, mostly foreign tourists. In his flight, the driver had murdered another person to steal his car before fleeing. He was shot dead a few days later by the police.
A few hours after the Ramblas massacre, five other members of the cell carried out the second attack on the seafront of the small seaside resort of Cambrils, 100 kilometers further south, knocking down several people there with a vehicle before fatally stabbing a woman.
The six Moroccan perpetrators of these two attacks, which had been claimed by the Islamic State organization, had been killed by Spanish police.
200 witnesses heard during the proceedings
The national audience heard more than 200 witnesses from November 2020 to February 2021. Chilling videos of young members of the cell joking while they were making explosives had been broadcast there.
One of the most poignant testimonies of the trial was that of Javier Martinez, whose 3-year-old son died on the Ramblas. “All the feelings that we have to continue to live, to fight, are shattered on the ground” Ramblas, he had said in court.
During the investigation, Mohamed Houli Chemlal, the main accused, explained to the police that the cell’s initial plan was to carry out attacks against famous sites, notably mentioning the basilica of the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona.
The plans for the cell had been shattered by the accidental explosion of their hideout in Alcanar, 200 kilometers south of Barcelona, where the jihadists were making explosives. The explosion, which had injured Chemlal, had precipitated the act of the group, indoctrinated, according to the prosecution, by a 44-year-old Moroccan imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, killed in the explosion.
The van used on the Ramblas had been hired by Driss Oukabir, the brother of one of the assailants killed, who repeatedly proclaimed his innocence during the trial, claiming not to be a religious person. Assertions rejected by the court which considered that his radicalization had been visible since February 2017 and that he had joined the cell led by Abdelbaki Es Satty. Houli Chemlal, for his part, “Integral part of the terrorist cell” and participated in the purchase of explosive material, as well as in the manufacture of explosive devices, according to the court ruling.