Victims of the Barcelona attack feel let down by the justice system

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Barcelona attack

BARCELONA – Last week the appeal was filed in the case against the three suspects of the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. Not only did the suspects appeal, the victims and surviving relatives also disagreed with the verdict.

On August 17, 2017, 16 people were killed and 140 others injured in terrorist attacks on Barcelona’s Ramblas and Cambrils. The perpetrators of these terrorist acts were shot dead by the police. They turned out to be part of a terrorist cell in Ripoll, Catalonia.

Three other members of this cell (Houli C., Driss O. and Said Ben I.) were sentenced to prison terms of 43, 36 and 8 years. They were not convicted of involvement in the attacks, but only for their participation in the terrorist organisation and the manufacture of explosive substances and devices. According to the court, it could not be proven that they were aware of the plans for these attacks committed by the deceased members of the cell.

The fact these suspects are not held responsible for the deaths and many injuries is unpalatable for the victims and relatives. Spanish law allows them to also act as prosecutors. They have therefore, like the suspects, appealed this judgment for the second time. This is what has now brought the case before the Spanish Supreme Court.

“Abandoned by the justice system”

The court’s verdict shows that the terrorist cell united “on the basis of a radicalised Salafist-jihadist ideology, with the aim of committing terrorist attacks.” This intention was confirmed by their extensive internet searches, including specific explorations of the Sagrada Familia.

According to the lawyers of the victims present at the appeal, there was sufficient evidence that the three suspects were involved in the attacks. “They clearly had the intention to kill,” said one of the lawyers. They criticised the Public Prosecution Service, which, according to them, did not properly include the available evidence in the indictment. At the hearing, one of the victims, through his lawyer, said: “We have felt let down by the justice system.”

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The quality of the investigation carried out was also questioned. This was after one of the lawyers wondered where the fourth man, who was part of the cell, had gone. According to him, this has not been investigated: “Doesn’t anyone care? We do,” he said. Another lawyer said: “My client has not set foot on the Ramblas for six years. She suffers from post-traumatic stress whenever she comes near it. She emphasises: “the pain caused cannot be repaired, the only consolation left is can be commanded is the truth.”

“Didn’t know about plans for attack”

The suspects’ lawyers, on the other hand, asked for an acquittal at the hearing. They expressed their doubts about the evidence for involvement in a terrorist organisation. Houli C.’s lawyer claimed that he was merely “hanging out with them” (the members of the terrorist cell) without knowing exactly what they were doing. He is also said to have had “no fair trial”. This is because the DNA from a home in Alcanar, which is linked to him, was not collected correctly. Homemade explosives were stored in this house, which accidentally went off a day before the attacks. Two members of the cell who were involved in the preparations for the attacks were killed.

Suspect Driss O. denied ever having been to Alcanar. According to his lawyer, this is also reflected in the satellite data from his mobile phone. Regarding the fact that the van used during the attack on the Ramblas had been rented by him, he stated that “he thought it was for a move.”

The third suspect, Said Ben I., lent his identity card and van to purchase materials for explosives. His lawyer argued that it has not been proven that he knew what his name would be used for.

The Public Prosecution Service will not appeal

The Spanish Public Prosecution Service has not appealed and is defending the current verdict. The public prosecutor emphasises that it is a “complex case with many victims”. He sees no reason to revise the verdict and emphasises that the lawsuit was not about “deceased persons”, but only about the behaviour of the three suspects.

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