City requests parliamentary probe into 17-A Barcelona terror attack

Local coalition government split over demand of an explanation about Ripoll imam’s ties to Spanish intelligence

On Monday the Barcelona city council passed a motion tabled by Junts per Catalunya and ERC urging the Spanish parliament to launch a probe into the terror attacks of 17 August 2017 with a view to shedding light on the ties of the Ripoll imam with Spain’s intelligence service. The motion was backed by JxCat and ERC, as well as Barcelona en Comú, mayor Colau’s party. Colau’s coalition partner, the PSC, voted against the motion because they believed it was wrong “to fuel conspiracy theories” and that the opposition “is ignoring the victims”. However, it was Ciudadanos, the PP and former French PM Manuel Valls who were the most critical when they accused the pro-independence parties of using the terrorist attacks for their own political ends. The motion was jointly drafted by Barcelona en Comú, ERC and JxCat and it got through by a majority of one vote (16 in favour and 15 against) due to the fact that many councillors missed the extraordinary meeting, which was only called last week. As many as nine local representatives were away on holiday and they missed Thursday’s session, including mayor Ada Colau and six other Barcelona en Comú councillors. Monday’s plenary was chaired by caretaker mayor Janet Sanz.

ERC spokesman Jordi Coronas argued the need to set up a parliamentary inquest on the 2017 attack as a way to uphold “democratic standards” and he denied jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon whilst decrying the fact that the Spanish parliament has twice rejected this request to date. Junts per Catalunya spokesperson Elsa Artadi noted that other countries hit by terror attacks, such as France and the UK, have set up inquests like this and that, as a matter of fact, Spain did so following the 2004 Madrid train bombings: “It is scary to think that Spain is withholding information from the general public. We cannot accept this silence”.

Artadi called on mayor Colau and her deputy, Jaume Collboni, to take it upon themselves to see that the probe is launched, since their respective parties are currently engaged in coalition talks to form a government in Spain. However, the PSC and Barcelona en Comú were split on the matter, in what is the first discrepancy that the two coalition partners have faced since the discussion of whether the yellow ribbon [in support of the political prisoners] should be displayed again on the façade of the the City Hall, a matter that was resolved among the parties’ spokespeople. Today’s disagreement was the first one recorded in a plenary session since the two parties formed a coalition government in Barcelona city.

Caretaker mayor Janet Sanz queried the need for such an extraordinary session to be held in the middle of August and only days away from the second anniversary of the terror attack. However, she spoke in favour of taking any steps that might shed light on the attack and went on to vote in favour of the motion urging Spain’s justice system —and, in particular, the Public Prosecutor— to investigate “any lingering doubts” over the 2017 attack.

The unionist groups took a hard line on the matter. Ciudadanos spokesperson María Luz Guilarte called the meeting “embarrassing and shameful” because, she claimed, it fuelled conspiracy theories. The Ciudadanos representative added that “they are prepared to go to the most absurd lengths to fuel their separatist obsession”. “Their hatred for Spain has driven them to put on this shambolic spectacle”, she complained. Manuel Valls accused ERC and JxCat of using Barcelona city “to further their agenda, which is supported by a minority” and he said the session was “a joke”.

PP leader Josep Bou made an appeal to “show political responsibility” and he recalled how he had attended a memorial for the 17-A victims carrying a banner in support of the king of Spain. He stated that “the king and I were called ‘murderers” that day because of my banner” and he argued that they “preferred to stage a separatist auto-da-fé and surround the king with independence flags”. Furthermore, the PP spokesman pointed to the photo of JxCat leader Joaquim Forn —currently in jail— and remarked that Forn had been the government minister tasked with security at the time of the attack.

Sitting in the visitors’ gallery during the session was Javier Martínez, the father of the three year-old boy who was killed on La Rambla, and Robert Manrique, who works with the UAVAT, the Unit for the Care and Assessment of Terror Victims. When Manuel Valls criticised holding the plenary, Martínez slammed him on Twitter ahead of the session: “The victims don’t mind the truth, but lies and humiliation do upset them”.

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