Spain hands long prison sentences to abettors who aided 2017 Barcelona terrorist attackers

A Spanish court on Thursday handed jail terms of up to 53 years to three men who helped the jihadists behind the 2017 Barcelona attacks that killed 16 people.

Spain hands long prison sentences to abettors who aided 2017 Barcelona terrorist attackers
A woman stands in shock hours after the van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 people and injuring over 80 on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17th, 2017. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed the bloodshed of August 17th-18th, 2017, when pedestrians were mown down by a van in Barcelona and others were attacked at a nearby seaside town as Europe was battered by a string of jihadist attacks.

Following a three-month trial which began in November, the National Court convicted Mohamed Houli Chemlal, 24, and Driss Oukabir, 32, of belonging to the terror cell behind the attacks, handing them sentences of 53 years and 46 years respectively.

They were also convicted of the manufacture and possession of explosives and terror-related harm and damage, but cleared of 14 counts of terrorist murder and other charges in a ruling of more than 1,000 pages.

The third, Said Ben Iazza, 26, was handed eight years for collaborating with the group.

The sentences were longer than those requested by the prosecution which had asked for Chemlal and Oukabir to serve 41 and 36 years respectively.

Despite the length of their sentences, the judges said the pair would not serve more than 20 years behind bars.

Pere Aragones, who took over this week as political leader in the northeastern Catalonia region, said the carnage of that August “has marked us forever”.

“Today, more than ever, we remember all the victims and send our love to their families. And let’s not forget the work done in those days by security and emergency forces,” he tweeted.

By-standers are questioned by police minutes after the van ploughed into the crowd, killing two persons and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona. Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP

 10-year ban 

Although the six perpetrators were shot dead by police, these three men were put on trial for helping the carnage which began when one of the jihadists ran down pedestrians on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas on a busy Thursday, killing 14.

Hours later, just after 1:00 am on Friday morning, five others rammed pedestrians in Cambrils, 100 kilometres (60 miles) further south, and fatally stabbed a woman before being shot dead by police.

Several days later, the van driver was also shot dead by police.

During the investigation, Chemlal admitted the cell had initially planned to target sites like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia basilica and police found documents also relating to the city’s Camp Nou football stadium and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But their plans were sped up after an accidental explosion on August 16 at a house in Alcanar, a coastal town between Barcelona and Valencia where they had been preparing explosives.

The blast killed the group’s spiritual leader and injured Chemlal, forcing the cell to hurriedly improvise the Barcelona attacks.

In their ruling, the judges also said that Chemlal and Oukabir were banned from returning to Alcanar for 10 years after completing their sentence, with a five-year ban handed to Ben Iazza.

More than 200 witnesses were called to testify at the trial that both victims and prosecutors hoped would shed light on how the violence unfolded.

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Spanish court approves extradition of UK murder suspect

A court in Spain has approved the extradition of one of Britain's most wanted fugitives, sought for his suspected role in the murder of a teenager in 2015.

Spanish court approves extradition of UK murder suspect

The decision will now go before the country’s cabinet for approval.

Spanish police arrested David Ungi in May in the town of Coin near the southern resort of Marbella on May 5th as he signed up at a gym at a shopping centre.

British police believe Ungi, 30, was involved in the fatal shooting in 2015 in Liverpool of 18-year-old Vinny Waddington.

Ungi, who left Britain less than 24 hours after Waddington was killed, is also wanted by the British authorities for alleged heroin trafficking.

Spanish police carried out the operation to arrest Ungi in cooperation with Britain’s National Crime Agency, which had put Ungi on its most-wanted list.

The Spanish coast has long been a popular bolthole for British criminals fleeing the law, because they can blend easily into the thriving expatriate communities.

There are about 290,000 British nationals officially registered as living in Spain, making them the fourth-largest foreign population in the country, according to national statistics institute INE.