Controversy over who knew the potential danger of Ripoll imam

Belgian police officer asked for information about Es Satty from colleague in Catalan police, but authorities claim exchange was unofficial

The antiterrorist coordination meeting held in Barcelona on Monday
The antiterrorist coordination meeting held in Barcelona on Monday / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

August 24, 2017 02:16 PM

The imam in the generally quiet town of Ripoll is believed to be the ringleader of the terrorist cell which attacked Barcelona and Cambrils last Thursday. Abdelbaki Es Satty died during the Alcanar blast, but he is still at the center of the debate. Did anyone know that he was potentially dangerous? How could he become the imam in Ripoll?

Some newspapers published on Thursday that a police officer in Belgium had asked for information about Es Satty from a colleague in the Catalan police. Authorities in Barcelona retorted that they had not received any official communication about the imam’s possible radicalization. In addition a judge in Valencia decided not to deport Es Satty despite his four years in prison for drug trafficking.

“A Belgian police officer asked a Mosso [Catalan police officer] about the imam,” was the headline of a news story published by the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia on Thursday. “The communication was informal and through the personal email accounts of both officers,” added the article. The Catalan home affairs minister said that the information about the imam was “informal” and included “no warning”. “We were asked about some information and we told them what we knew: we had no records that he had been investigated or was dangerous,” claimed the minister.

Catalan opposition party says “no shadow” on Mossos

The Presidency minister supported his colleague’s view and denied there was a “media wave” to discredit the “brilliant” actions of the Mossos. The opposition Catalan Socialist party also praised the force and said there was “no shadow” on its performance. The debate surrounding the police under the control of the Catalan pro-independence government has begun with scarcely five weeks to go until the October 1 referendum that the Catalan executive plans to call in defiance of the Spanish authorities.

Some commentators argue that the handling of the terrorist crisis by the Mossos is proof of Catalonia’s capacity for self-governance. Others question whether the Catalan police should have taken the Alcanar house blast as evidence that the terrorists were about to launch their attacks only 17 hours later.

No direct access to Europol database

Another key element of the debate in the past few days has been calls for the Mossos to be given access to the Europol criminal database. The Catalan executive is now urging Spanish authorities to honor last month’s agreement that the Mossos be given access to the European intelligence network. However, one Spanish police union claims that the Mossos could have asked them to check Es Satty’s records on their database. The Spanish police have access to the Europol network, but the central government says that none of their forces had been warned by Belgian authorities about the imam.

Judge cancelled Es Satty deportation order

Meanwhile, a judge in the community of Valencia decided to cancel a deportation order on Es Satty in 2015. Although he had been in prison from 2010 to 2014 for drug trafficking, the local court decided not to deport him on the grounds that he had made efforts to integrate and had found a job.