Trial of Ramblas terror attack must clarify who was behind it

Questions remain about the role of Es-Satty and his relationship with the secret services

On Tuesday, one of the most eagerly awaited trials in recent times begins in the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid, which is to clarify the August 2017 terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Cambrils and Alcanar, in which 16 murders were committed. But the material authors of the events are dead because they were shot by the police or died in the explosion at the flat in Alcanar, a situation which could strongly condition this trial.

The court, the public prosecutor's office, the Generalitat and Barcelona City Council have all decided agaisnt accusing the only three defendants of murder, charging them only with belonging to or collaborating with the Ripoll cell, making explosives and attempting to cause great damage. The families of the victims do not agree and that is why the individual accusations do accuse Driss Oukabir and Mohamed Houli of murder, while the third, Saïd Ben Iazza, is only accused of collaborating with a terrorist organisation.

The trial, which is scheduled to last until the end of December, will seek to ascertain the responsibility of each of them for organising the killing, but more importantly, the trial should serve to shed light on many dark aspects of the August events, from what the process of radicalisation of the young terrorists in Ripoll was and what went wrong so that it could not be detected by the community and the police, to, above all, the role of the Imam of Ripoll Abdelbaki Es-Satty, killed in the Alcanar explosion. There are two unknowns here. One, to see if it can be clarified whether he really was the only mastermind or whether there were other people involved who could not be located. And, above all, to clarify what Es-Satty's relationship with the Spanish secret services really was. It is known, because it appears in the case files, that the Spanish Intelligence services and Guardia Civil had visited the imam in Castelló prison. The imam also claimed in 2016 that he was talking on the phone with the secret services. Although it has not been officially recognised, this is relevant information that should also be used to find out to what extent he informed or misinformed the Spanish police and whether he used this cover to organise the attack.

This attack, it should be remembered, took place at a time of great political tension, a few months before the 1st of October, and in the midst of a tense climate in which relations between the Spanish police and the Mossos were not at their best. It is important to know what went wrong to prevent it from happening again. If there was a lack of police coordination, errors in the investigation or relevant information hidden from the regional police that prevented effective preventive action, it must be known. Only by reaching the end can we work to seal the cracks in the information that could perhaps have prevented these tragic events. The trial will reopen many wounds among the victims, many of whom complain that they have not received the support they had hoped for, and also among society. We must hope that it will be truly exemplary in the search for truth.

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