Spanish protests honour Paris terror victims

People across Spain gathered on Sunday to honour the 12 victims of a terror attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Spanish protests honour Paris terror victims
Muslim women in Madrid on Sunday during a show of solidarity following three days of bloodshed triggered by an attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of people in Madrid gathered at rallies at the central Puerta del Sol and at the city's Atocha train station to take a stand against terrorism.

The Atocha demonstration was organized by Spain's Arab Culture Foundation (Funca), with many Muslim and Jewish participants expressing their outrage over the attack which shocked France.

Veiled women with young children joined groups of young men at the rally, holding up signs that read "Not in our name" and "I am Muslim and I am not a terrorist".

"We don't want killings carried out in the name of Islam. I don't want people to give me a dirty look on the street, I don't want people to avoid me," said Driss Bouzdoudou, 30, who has lived in Spain for the past 14 years.

The rally was held near a monument to the victims of the March 11, 2004 train bombings, when Islamist militants killed 191 people and injured nearly 2,000 in a series of coordinated backpack bomb attacks on trains travelling to the station.

Sunday's rally at Spain's Puerta del Sol. Photo: Jessica Jones/The Local

"This is to say that we are against all types of terrorism that have been carried out in here in Spain or any other country, that you can't commit terrorism in the name of noble or less noble causes," said Said Ida Hassan, the head of the Arab Cultural Foundation, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

"If you are against Charlie Hebdo there are legal means. We want to encourage dialogue, the culture of respect."

The Spain protests took place on a day when tens of thousands of people joined rallies in cities across Europe on Sunday, singing the Marseillaise and holding up pens in solidarity with France after terror attacks left 17 people dead.

Some 20,000 people marched through the Belgian capital Brussels, holding banners saying "United against hate" and "Freedom of speech".

In Berlin, 9,000 joined the march while elsewhere in Europe, about 3,000 people turned out in driving snow and sub-zero conditions in Stockholm, many holding pens in the air.

Others were shielding candles from the wind in a silent vigil for the victims, according to Journalists Without Borders which organised the Swedish rally.


Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.