The mastermind of the jihadist attacks in August last year, the Ripoll-based imam Abdelbaki es-Satty, was visited by four police officers while he was serving time for a drug conviction in the Castelló prison between 2010 and 2014. This newspaper has learnt that much after gaining access to the case file of the Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks on August 17 2017 (17-A). A report written by the Prison Service, which reports to Spain’s Interior Ministry, lists “four meetings with police” on April 15 and April 24 2012, June 26 2012, and finally on March 17 2014, just over a month before Es-Satty’s release. Furthermore, the report includes the ID number of up to four different police officers who visited Es-Satty on several occasions. It is unclear whether they were Guardia Civil, Police or CNI, Spain’s intelligence service.
In November last year, Spain’s CNI acknowledged that they had “contacted” the ringleader of the terrorist cell responsible for the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks last year. As reported initially by El País, Es-Satty might have worked as a CNI informer, even though later the Madrid daily toned down their claim, stating that Es-Satty had merely been in touch with the CNI. Now the 17-A case file shows that the imam, who was killed in the accidental explosion in the Alcanar villa where the jihadis were readying the attacks, met up to four times with police officers while he was in the Castelló prison. Last March CNI director Félix Sanz Roldán asked to appear in parliament so as to clear the matter. Since the address took place before the official secrets committee, we have had no details about the explanations he gave to the political parties.
Never in a Catalan jail
Another official report, this time by the information and security division of Catalonia’s Penitentiary Service, states that the Ripoll imam never spent any time in a Catalan prison. At one point he was incarcerated in Ceuta [one of Spain’s African enclaves] but was moved to Castelló (País Valencià) a month later because the facility north of Morocco’s border was overcrowded. In November 2011 Es-Satty was sent back to Ceuta to stand trial, after which he returned to the Valencian facility.
Arrested in Ceuta in 2010
The Prison Service report on Es-Satty gives details about the man’s life. Es-Satty was arrested on January 1 in Ceuta while he was attempting to smuggle 121 kg of hashish into Spain. He was 37 years old at the time and had been living in Catalonia for twelve years. According to his bio, he had decided to move to Catalonia because he had acquaintances living in Barcelona and Tarragona. Es-Satty stated that he had four brothers, all of whom lived in Morocco. He married when he was eighteen and had nine children in Tetuan, but he befriended another Moroccan woman who lived in Segur de Calafell when he moved to Catalonia.
He was sent to a Spanish prison two days after his arrest in 2010. He had never been caught before and he claimed that three Moroccan brothers had beaten him up and forced him to smuggle the drugs. He always claimed to be an innocent man. During his stint in the Castelló prison, he received a wage from the workshop where he was employed. His expenses were minimal. The only money he ever transferred was €500 to Mohamed Aberrich, while in Ceuta and before he was moved to País Valencià. However, the money order was cancelled because of missing details. While in jail Es-Satty used to phone both his ex-wife and his then-new partner in Catalonia.