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BARCELONA ATTACKS

Spain marks five years since Catalonia jihadist attacks

A ceremony was held in Barcelona on Wednesday in memory of 16 people killed in jihadist attacks in the Catalan city and a nearby resort exactly five years ago.

Spain marks five years since Catalonia jihadist attacks
Relatives of victims hold flowers to place at Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, on August 17, 2022, as the city marks the fifth anniversary of the 2017 jihadist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 16 people dead. - A van rammed into crowds on Las Ramblas Boulevard in the heart of Barcelona on August 17, 2017, igniting four days of terror. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Dozens of people observed a minute’s silence on the tree-lined Las Ramblas boulevard where on August 17, 2017 a van mowed down pedestrians, leaving a trail of death.

As a cellist played a traditional Catalan song, relatives of the victims and officials laid white carnations in front of a memorial plaque marking the spot where the van came to a halt.

Among those attending were Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez, Culture minister Miquel Iceta, the president of the regional government of Catalonia Pere Aragonès, and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau.

“This date used to be just another day in the calendar. Now on August 17 you always wake up with a knot in your stomach,” Colau told public television TVE just before the ceremony.

The attacks, which also left 140 people injured, were carried out by a cell made up mostly of young people of Moroccan descent who grew up in Catalonia. They were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The first attack took place on the famous Ramblas avenue in Barcelona, where a truck rammed into passers-by, killing 14 people, mostly foreign tourists. The youngest victim was a three-year-old boy.

Relatives of victims hold white carnation flowers to place at Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, on August 17, 2022, as the city marks the fifth anniversary of the 2017 jihadist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 16 people dead. – A van rammed into crowds on Las Ramblas Boulevard in the heart of Barcelona on August 17, 2017, igniting four days of terror. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

The driver, who had killed a 30-year-old man to steal his car while fleeing, was shot dead a few days later by the police.

Several hours after the first attack, five accomplices drove into more pedestrians and stabbed a woman who later died of her injuries in Cambrils, a seaside resort 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the south. All five suspects were shot dead by police.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Barcelona and Cambrils had “suffered hate and terror in their streets”.

“Five years later, we remember the victims of these attacks with our sights set on continuing to build a future of peace,” he said.

A Spanish court in 2021 found three men guilty of assisting the perpetrators of the attacks and sentenced them to eight, 46 and 53 years in jail.

But last month, a court reduced by 10 years the sentences of the two men who had received the longest jail terms. The third convict was granted parole in September 2021.

A handful of protesters who accuse the Spanish government of being behind the attacks jeered and chanted during the moment of silence and held up signs that read: “We demand the truth”.

The protest was called by several small Catalan separatist groups and some of the signs held up by the participants had Catalan separatist flags.

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TAX FRAUD

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

A Spanish court has ordered Colombian music superstar Shakira to stand trial in a tax fraud case at a date yet to be determined, court documents showed on Tuesday.

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

Prosecutors in Barcelona said in July they would seek a prison sentence of more than eight years against the singer and a fine of nearly €24 million ($24 million), after she rejected a plea deal over accusations of tax evasion.

They accuse the 45-year-old “Hips don’t Lie” songstress of defrauding the Spanish tax office of €14.5 million ($14.7 million) on income earned between 2012 and 2014.

Prosecutors say Shakira moved to Spain in 2011 when her relationship with FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique became public but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015.

The couple, who have two children, announced their separation in June. On September 19, a Barcelona court ordered the singer to stand trial for six tax crimes, according to a court ruling made public on Tuesday.

In an interview published in Elle magazine last week, Shakira said she was confident she had behaved correctly and did not owe the Spanish tax office anything.

“These accusations are false,” she said.

“While Gerard and I were dating, I was on a world tour. I spent more than 240 days outside Spain, so there was no way I qualified as a resident,” she added.

“The Spanish tax authorities saw that I was dating a Spanish citizen and started to salivate. It’s clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what.”

Shakira’s lawyers have said that until 2014 she earned most of her money from international tours, moved to Spain full time only in 2015 and has met all her tax obligations.

The singer says she has paid €17.2 million to Spanish tax authorities and has no outstanding debts.

She argues Spanish prosecutors are trying to claim money she earned during her international tour and from her participation on the show “The Voice”.

She was a judge on the show in the United States, when she says she was not yet resident in Spain.

A Barcelona court in May dismissed an appeal from the singer to drop the charges.

Shakira was named in one of the largest ever leaks of financial documents in October 2021, known as the “Pandora Papers”, among public figures linked to offshore assets.

With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influence, three-time Grammy winner Shakira scored major global hits with songs such as “Hips don’t Lie”, “Whenever, Wherever” and “Waka Waka”, the official song of the 2010 World Cup.

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