Monday, 17 August 2020, marks the third anniversary of the terror attacks that took place in Barcelona and Cambrils, which left 16 dead and more than 140 people injured. Most of the casualties came on the Catalan capital’s famous La Rambla boulevard, when a van drove at speed through the middle of the pedestrianized area in the center of the street.
Three years later, the annual event to commemorate the day was called off due to COVID-19, but in the end a short, austere one was held, including a moment of silence attended by Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain authorities in La Rambla.
The attacks were orchestrated by a jihadi group based in Ripoll, under the town’s imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who probably died with other members in an accidental explosion in an apartment in Alcanar on the eve of the attacks. The other members were shot dead by police.
Calls for investigation
During the gathering, some members of the public held signs with victims’ faces and chanted the words, “We want to know the truth.” They feel it is imperative that an investigatory committee be set up to establish what exactly happened on the day of the attacks and in the lead up to the day. “There are a lot of unanswered questions,” some explained to Catalan News. The Spanish Congress has repeatedly denied an investigation committee on the attacks.
Specifically, the members of the public making these calls feel there is more to be learned about the relationship between the Spanish intelligence and the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Mohammed es-Satty. Other members of the public held up signs that directly accused the Spanish government of being “responsible for the August 17 attack.”
Three men face trial
In January 2020, Spain’s National Court said they would try three suspects for terrorism, but not murder – the trial is expected to begin in the coming months. Announcing that the pre-trial procedures had been completed, the court said there was not enough evidence to attribute a direct role to the three men in the deaths of the victims who died in the attacks in the Catalan capital and the nearby seaside town.
Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir will be charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and with making and possessing explosives and other terrorist materials, while Said Ben Iazza is accused of collaborating with a terrorist organization. Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir were arrested after the attacks and have been in preventive detention since August 2017, while Said Ben Iazza has been in custody since September of the same year.
Spain’s public prosecutor confirmed on July 23 that it would request a 41-year sentence for Houli, the only survivor of the explosion in Alcanar, for allegedly being involved in planning the attacks and preparing the bombs. The Catalan government, acting as private prosecutor, requests 44 years for him, and the Barcelona local council, 95. Yet, none of them are accusing them of murder for not having been directly involved in the incident, although the Catalan executive has made clear this might change after the trial takes place.
For Driss Oukabir, brother of one of the terrorists shot dead by the police, the public prosecutor requests 36 years behind bars, and for the third accused, Said Ben Iazza, it requests a 8-year sentence.