Three convicted for La Rambla terror attacks with sentences from 8 to 53 years
Spain's National Court ruled that Mohamed Houli and Driss Oukabir spend more time in prison than requested by prosecutor
The only three implicated individuals thought to have survived from the cell that carried out the La Rambla terror attacks in 2017 have been sentenced to prison for as long as 53 and a half years.
Spain's National Court sentenced Mohamed Houli to 53 and a half years behind bars and Driss Oukabir to 46 and a half years for the events in Barcelona and Cambrils on August 17, 2017, while Said ben Iazza was sentenced to 8 years.
In addition to this, the former will not be able to go to the town of Alcanar, where explosives were made, for 10 years after their sentences are served, while for the latter this will be 5 years after his prison term is completed.
Houli and Oukabir have been found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization; possessing, stockpiling, and manufacturing explosives and flammable substances or devices that are terrorist in nature; and attempted criminal damages of terrorist intent in combination with 29 offenses of grievous bodily harm due to serious negligence. Ben Iazza, meanwhile, was convicted of collaboration with a terrorist organization.
Yet, none of them were found guilty for the murders, since they did not directly intervene.
At the trial, held in November 2020, the public prosecutor requested 41 years for Houli, while the Catalan and Barcelona governments asked for more, between 44 and 95 years behind bars.
For Oukabir, the prosecutor requested 36 years while the two other Catalan institutions sought between 44 and 90 years.
All three parties called for ben Iazza to be given an eight-year sentence for collaborating with the cell.
"We’re happy for the victims, those who died, their relatives... Because they’re being recognized by this sentence," said Jesús Alonso, the public prosecutor at the National Court.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, described the verdict as a "much anticipated and difficult moment, especially for relatives of mortal victims," whom she said, "the city will always remember."
Role of convicted individuals
Houli and Oukabir were brought to court for allegedly belonging to the jihadist cell behind the 2017 attacks, although they did not directly participate in them. Iazza is on trial for aiding the cell without being an active member.
Houli was arrested in hospital while still healing from wounds suffered in an explosion that took place in a house in the town of Alcanar, southern Catalonia, on the eve of the attacks. Mohammed es-Satty, imam of Ripoll and thought to be the ringleader of the cell, died in the house where explosives were being made.
Oukabir was detained in Ripoll. The van used by Younes Abouyaaqoub – who was gunned down a few days after August 17 by the Catalan police – was rented under his name. While he claims to have no links with the terrorist group, some of his private messages suggest he may have joined the group some weeks prior to the attacks, but gave up on the plan at the last minute.
Saïd ben Iazza was arrested on September 22, a month after police officers interviewed him as a witness in Vinaròs, a Valencian town close to Alcanar. He told officers he knew two members of the cell because they frequented his uncle's butcher’s shop, where he worked. He admitted to lending them his ID and a car, but denied knowing that they were going to use it to buy the raw materials needed to make explosives.
16 deaths in summer 2017 terror attack
On August 17, 2017, a white van drove into a crowd gathered on Barcelona's La Rambla boulevard, causing chaos, injury, and deaths. The attacker fled in a stolen car after killing the driver. Hours later, after midnight, five other men stabbed a woman in a nearby seaside town.
In all, 16 people died and 140 were injured. All men directly responsible for the attacks were eventually killed by police. But they were later found to be part of a larger jihadist cell – one that was preparing attacks on an even bigger scale.