The last four prisoners of 11-M | Spain

The jihadist attacks of March 11, 2004 in Madrid, which caused 192 deaths and nearly 2,000 injuries, led to a major judicial case in which 116 people were charged. In the end, only 29 sat in the dock. And of them, 21 were convicted by the National Court, although the Supreme Court finally reduced their number to 18. Another four were tried and convicted by Morocco. There was also a minor involved in the events who served his sentence in a detention center. Today, 20 years after the massacre and after a trickle of releases in recent years due to compliance with their sentences, only four convicts are still in prison. Three in Spain, and the fourth in the Maghreb country. They are the last prisoners of 11-M.

In Spanish prisons are José Emilio Suárez Trashorras – the Asturian miner who provided the explosive to the members of the terrorist cell – and Jamal Zougam and Othman el Gnaoui, the only material authors of the attacks who were convicted, because the rest blew themselves up days later. of the massacre in an apartment in Leganés (Madrid). The three were sentenced to thousands of years in prison and still have another 20 years in prison ahead of them since Spanish legislation sets the maximum prison stay for terrorist crimes at 40 years. Their sentences will not expire until March 2044. Abdelilah Hriz, sentenced in 2008 to 20 years in prison, remains in Morocco. His release is not scheduled for another four years.

Although the time horizon of the three prisoners in Spain is identical – the former Asturian miner and Zougam will have served their sentence on March 3, 2044, and El Gnanoui, on the 19th of the same month – the prison regime in which they are held is not. they find. The only thing they agree on is that none of them have so far enjoyed prison benefits, such as exit permits.

Jamal Zougam

Zougam, sentenced to 42,922 years as the perpetrator of the attacks – two victims identified him as the terrorist who planted the backpack bomb that exploded on the train at the Santa Eugenia station and caused 14 deaths – remains held in Teixeiro prison ( A Coruña) in first degree penitentiary or closed regime, the harshest. This classification, which was applied to the majority of those convicted of 11-M, is reserved for inmates of “extreme danger or serious and manifest maladjustment.” Among other limitations, it prevents you from requesting exit permits, in addition to having fewer hours outside the yard and more limited contact with other inmates.

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His defense lawyer, Manuel Ortega, points out that Zougam continues to deny his participation in the attacks or in their preparation, as he did in the trial, and assures that they are looking for a legal formula to have his case reviewed. “He has nothing to do with religious radicalism or jihadism,” emphasizes Ortega, who adds that his behavior in prison in these 20 years “has been exemplary, without sanctions or conflicts.” The lawyer has unsuccessfully requested on several occasions that the prison regime be made more flexible.

In 2018, Zougam was interrogated by the Civil Guard for his alleged involvement in the jihadist radicalization network dismantled in Operation Escribano. He was one of thirty Muslim prisoners, spread across more than 20 prisons, whom the leaders of this plot contacted through letters to join the group they intended to create. The investigation revealed that the 11-M convict rejected the offer, so he was no longer charged. “They have tried to implicate him in several of these,” his defense complains.

Othman El Gnaoui

Also in the first degree of prison, the harshest, is Othman El Gnaoui, sentenced to 42,922 years in prison as the perpetrator for having participated in the construction of the Morata de Tajuña house in which the explosive was hidden and for having accompanied a section of the on the way to the caravan that transported the rubber 2 that was used in the attacks from Asturias. Held in the Mansilla prison (León), his situation is somewhat better than that of Zougam. Penitentiary Institutions has applied, at least since 2019, article 100.2 of the regulations for his good behavior, which has softened his life regime until it is very similar to a second degree: he is allowed to spend more time in the yard and even He has been given a cell in a module where prisoners are held under the ordinary regime. But he has not been granted any exit permission.

“He is in a module for troublesome prisoners,” prison sources highlight, adding that he has been allowed to participate in activities within the center, such as a marquetry workshop. Legal sources assure that El Gnaoui appears “completely integrated into prison life” and that he has taken advantage of the time “to improve his Spanish and his cultural level.” El Gnaoui, like Zougam, insists that he is innocent and, although he does not deny his relationship with the members of the cell, he alleges that it was “occasional.”

From left to right, Jamal Zougam, Othman El Gnaoui and Abdelilah Hriz.
From left to right, Jamal Zougam, Othman El Gnaoui and Abdelilah Hriz.EFE

Suárez Trashorras

Suárez Trashorras’ prison journey has been more complex. Sentenced to 34,715 years in prison, the former miner managed to be classified in the second degree of prison, which is where more than 73% of those convicted in Spain are and which opens the door to enjoying exit permits when they have served a quarter of the sentence. although he has not been granted any despite having filed dozens of applications, as confirmed by legal sources. In all cases, Penitentiary Institutions have argued to deny them the seriousness and repercussion of the events for which he was convicted, and the psychological impact on the victims that his release may have.

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In these years, Suárez Trashorras has changed his story of the events several times – even when he was already convicted – and has even expressed his repentance and participated in a restorative justice workshop, during which he had a meeting with a survivor of the attacks. However, at the end of 2018, when he was in La Moraleja prison, in Dueñas (Palencia), he allegedly threatened a prison official, which led to his transfer to another prison and his regression to the prison. first grade. Currently he is in the Asturian prison of Villabona, the closest to his family home in Avilés, and again in second degree. In this prison he starred in a striking episode last Friday: he requested that euthanasia be applied to him considering that the mental illness that he has been diagnosed with does not receive adequate treatment in prison, according to what he published Trade. The euthanasia law, in force since June 2021, only contemplates assisted death when the applicant has “intolerable suffering due to a terminal illness, or due to an irreversible illness with limitations on their physical autonomy.”

Abdelilah Hriz

In Morocco, four people were convicted for their involvement in 11-M, in what was an unprecedented case of judicial collaboration between both countries since until then the Rabat authorities had not tried any of their citizens for acts of terrorism committed in another country. Three of them – Hicham Ahmidan, Mohamed Belhadj and Abdelazziz el Merabet – are already free after serving the sentences of between eight and 10 years in prison that were imposed on them. The fourth, Abdelilah Hriz, is still in prison, as confirmed by sources in the Spanish anti-terrorist fight.

Hriz was sentenced in December 2008 to 20 years in prison after the court considered valid the evidence provided by the Spanish justice system, which had found his genetic profile in a comb found in the rubble of the Leganés apartment in which part of himself was immolated. of the jihadist cell and in a pair of pants located in the house of Morata de Tajuña, as well as his links with two other members of the group. Hriz, who admitted to having lived in Madrid in 2004, always denied his participation in the events. In 2005 he traveled to Syria, where he was detained and subsequently transferred to Morocco. In prison in this country since January 2008, he still has four years left to serve his sentence for 11-M.

Expulsion from the country as soon as the sentence is served

Of the 15 convicted in Spain for 11-M who have already expired their sentences, 12 were foreigners. Of these, 11 were expelled to their countries of origin – all to Morocco, except one – as soon as they were released. This was decided by the Government in application of article 57.2 of the Immigration Law, which allows the expulsion of any foreign citizen who has been sentenced to prison sentences of more than one year. The last was Abdelmajid Bouchar, released from prison in August last year after serving an 18-year sentence. Before, Rachid Aglif and Mohamed Bouharrat were deported in 2022; Hassan el Haski in 2019; Saed el Harrak, Hamid Ahmidan and Youssef Belhadj in 2017; Fouad el Morabit in 2016; Rafa Zouhier and Mohamed Larbi Ben Sellam in 2014, and Nasredine Bousbaa (expelled to Algeria) in 2010.

The only one who was not expelled was Mahmoud Slimane, sentenced to two years in prison for falsifying documents and who was released from prison in 2007. All had been convicted of crimes such as membership in a terrorist organization or falsification of documents. No one was considered the material author of the attack, which is why their sentences were lower.

Nine served their entire sentence in the first degree of prison, the most severe, and only two saw their prison life regime made more flexible. One was Hamid Ahmidan, sentenced to 13 years by the Supreme Court for having helped make the basements of the Morata de Tajuña house where the cell kept the explosive. He was classified in the second degree after he sent a letter to the Penitentiary Surveillance judge in 2016 in which he rejected “all types of violence, including that carried out by Islamists for religious reasons.” The other was Mohamed Bouharrat, sentenced to 12 years in prison after finding evidence of his stay in the apartment in Leganés (Madrid) where part of the terrorist cell committed suicide. Bouharrat spent the last years of his sentence in a module of the Valladolid prison for inmates with good behavior and worked as an orderly at the sports center.

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