Catalonia attack suspects to remain in custody

Court claims evidence justifies continued detention of two arrested terror suspects, while no victim remains in critical condition, and Mossos union calls for end to ‘sterile’ warning debate


ACN | Barcelona

September 1, 2017 08:39 PM

While controversy continues over whether the authorities were warned beforehand of the August 17 terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, two of the four surviving members of the 12-man terror cell are to remain in custody. On Friday, a National Court judge confirmed that Driss Oukabir and Mohamed Houli Chemalal would remain on remand, arguing that there is enough evidence to show that the suspects were willing participants in 16 counts of murder, in more than 100 lesser terrorist offences, and of belonging to a terrorist organization.

In Oukabir’s case, the judge believes he was an accessory to the attacks and fully aware of the religious radicalization of his brother, Moussa. Oukabir also rented the van used in La Rambla attack, as well as contradicting himself in his testimony. Houli Chemalal, meanwhile, openly admits that the aim of the group was to prepare explosives to be used in committing terror attacks. The judge thus believes that the two suspects should remain in custody and pointed out that they could be subject to the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Victims out of danger

Also on Friday, the Catalan health department announced that none of the 17 victims of the attacks who are still in hospital remain in a critical condition. Of the 17 patients, 14 were injured in Barcelona, three of whom were left in a critical condition, and the other three in Cambrils, one of whom was in a critical condition. The health department also said that one patient who had previously been discharged had been readmitted to hospital. The 17 victims are currently spread out in eight different hospitals in Catalonia, mostly in Barcelona, with one patient hospitalized in Zaragoza.

‘Complete lack of respect’

Yet, while the court case continues and the victims recover, the debate over whether the US intelligence services warned the Catalan police of the attacks beforehand refuses to go away. The union of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the SME, complained on Friday that the suggestion made in some media outlets that a single warning could have avoided the attacks showed a “complete lack of respect.” The union defended the actions of the Catalan police and backed the version of events given on Thursday by the Catalan home affairs minister, Joaquim Forn, and Catalan police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero.

In a statement, the SME accused those continuing the “sterile” debate of wanting to discredit the actions of the Mossos, and pointed out that the terror cell’s original target had been the Sagrada Familia, and that the attack on La Rambla was “improvised”. The union ended its statement calling for communication and cooperation between police forces, “without more nonsense for personal or political reasons.”