Three men accused of belonging to an Islamic terrorist cell that carried out a double attack with 16 dead in Catalonia (northeastern Spain) in 2017 or of having been accomplices were sentenced today to sentences of 8 to 53 years in prison.
Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir, tried for belonging to this cell, were sentenced to 53 and a half years and 46 years, respectively, while the Public Ministry had requested 41 and 36 years against them.
In its statement, the National Hearing, responsible in particular for cases of terrorism, considered, however, that the effective penalty “would not exceed 20 years”.
The court accompanied the Public Prosecutor’s Office against Said Ben Iazza, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison for lending a vehicle and documents to the terrorists.
The first attack took place on August 17 on the famous Las Ramblas avenue in Barcelona, where a van hit passers-by, killing 14 people, mostly foreign tourists.
In his escape, the driver murdered someone else to steal his car.
A few hours after the Las Ramblas massacre, five other members of the cell carried out the second attack on the seashore, in the small seaside resort of Cambrils, 100 kilometers further south.
They ran over several people with a vehicle, before fatally stabbing a woman.
The six perpetrators of these two attacks, which were claimed by the EI (Islamic State) group, all Moroccan, were killed by the police.
The National Hearing heard more than 200 witnesses between November 2020 and February 2021.
During the investigation, Mohamed Houli Chemlal, the main accused, explained to the police that the cell’s initial plan was to launch attacks on famous sites, mentioning the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The cell’s plans were compromised by the accidental explosion of its hideout in Alcanar, 200 kilometers south of Barcelona, where extremists were manufacturing explosives.
The explosion, which wounded Chemlal, precipitated the group’s passage to the act. According to the prosecution, they had been indoctrinated by the 44-year-old Moroccan imam Abdelbaki Es Satty.
One of the most moving testimonies of the trial was that of Javier Martínez, whose 3-year-old son died in Las Ramblas.
“All the feelings you have to continue to live, to fight, have been shattered on the floor” of Las Ramblas, he said in court.
Spain was hit on March 11, 2004 by the bloodiest Islamic extremist attack in Europe, when devices exploded on board four trains at Madrid’s Atocha station. The attack left 191 dead and about 2,000 injured.
The country has not suffered any new attacks since 2017 in Catalonia, but many experts believe that Spain is still under threat from radical segments of Islam.