17-A attacks

Spain's High Court releases terrorist who collaborated with 17-A terrorist attacks

Said ben Iazza has served half of his eight-year sentence behind bars

3 min
Said Ben Iazza, on the right, along with the other two terrorists convicted of the 17-A attacks during the trial at the Audiencia Nacional

BarcelonaHe was the last person arrested for the 17-18 August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils - in which 16 people were killed and several hundred injured - and has become the first to be released. Spain's High Court has released Said ben Iazza, the man sentenced to eight years in prison for collaborating with the Ripoll cell. He left them the documentation and a van to buy the material that the terrorists used to make explosives with which they wanted to attack in the Catalan capital on 20 August. The explosion of the Alcanar chalet where the group was preparing the material put an end to this plan and precipitated the attacks on the Rambla in Barcelona and the Passeig Marítim in Cambrils.

The High Court has released Ben Iazza because he has already served half of the sentence imposed on him behind bars. He will have been in prison for four years. His lawyer already asked for his release at the end of the trial for the 17-A attacks, but then the court of the magistrate Alfonso Guevara ruled it out. Now it has ended up agreeing to release Ben Iazza with conditions: he has been asked to surrender his passport, he will have to designate an address where he can be located and he has been forbidden to leave Spain. These are preventive measures to prevent Ben Iazza from fleeing.

The 17-A sentence ended up condemning the three surviving terrorists of the Ripoll cell for belonging to a terrorist group, but not for the murders, injuries and damage caused by the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. The prosecution and the judge who investigated the case ruled out trying them for murder, because they considered that none of them had participated directly in the attacks: Mohamed Houli Chemlal was injured in the explosion of the Alcanar chalet where he was helping to prepare the explosives along with the imam Abdelbaki es-Satty and Youssef Aalla; Driss Oukabir disavowed the cell's plans at the last moment and Ben Iazza has always been accused of only collaborating with the cell. The same line was followed in the sentencing of Houli Chemlal, Oukabir and Ben Iazza to 53, 46 and 8 years in prison respectively.

From butcher to collaborator with terrorists

Said ben Iazza met the 17-A terrorists in the butcher shop where he worked in Vinaròs (Castelló). Some of the members of the Ripoll cell moved there several times during 2017 while they were in the Alcanar chalet where they prepared the explosives and designed the plan to attack Barcelona on 20 August. The sentence considers it proven that Ben Iazza maintained close contact with them, to the point that he left them the documentation and his delivery van, which the terrorists ended up using to buy the materials to manufacture the explosives with which they wanted to attack.

The Guardia Civil arrested him five days after the attacks, on 22 August, 2017. The key clue that led investigators to Ben Iazza was the documentation that some terrorists gave in the shops where they tried or came to buy the materials to make explosives, which were in his name. On at least two occasions, Younes Abouyaaqoub - the Rambla terrorist - used his documentation to buy more than 300 liters of hydrogen peroxide in July 2017, accompanied by Mohamed Hichamy, who also bought hundreds of liters of acetone in other shops. Posing as Ben Iazza, Abouyaaqoub told the shopkeepers he needed the hydrogen peroxide to bleach clothes and gave an address in Vinaròs as a contact.

His defense has always insisted that Ben Iazza was unaware of the group's plans to attack. "I have nothing more to add. I will let the evidence speak for itself", said the condemned man in his last turn to speak at the trial.