Spain begins trial of suspects in reference to the lethal van assault in 2017

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© Reuters. Workers unload a shipment of humanitarian aid from a plane arriving from Russia at Zvartnots Airport outside of Yerevan

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MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish High Court will open the trial of three suspected Islamic militants on Tuesday in connection with a 2017 attack in Barcelona that killed 14 people – Spain's deadliest in over a decade.

A lone attacker drove a rented van into the crowd on Barcelona's central La Rambla boulevard, killing 14 people and injuring over a hundred people. Another man was killed while the attacker escaped.

On the eve of the attack, an accidental explosion destroyed a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, ​​where explosives and gas canisters had been stored. The explosion killed the alleged leader of the group, an imam.

Two of the accused, a Spaniard and a Moroccan, are charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, manufacturing and storing explosives, and attempting to cause widespread destruction, all related to the Alcanar explosion but not directly related to the Barcelona attack, court documents .

Prosecutors are seeking 41 and 36 year prison terms for the two and eight years of another Moroccan national accused of being an accomplice. They have been in jail since their arrest in 2017 in connection with the explosion.

Eulogio Paz, head of one of the victims' associations serving as a civil party in the trial, said on Friday his group would "fight for a murder charge and conviction of the accused … whether they are closer or farther away." away from the van "used in Barcelona.

They are demanding perpetual sentences for the two main suspects.

The day after the August 17 attack, five militants drove into a crowd in the coastal town of Cambrils and attacked bystanders with knives, killing one woman and injuring several others before being shot by police. A few days later, officials killed the Barcelona attacker.

The process, which is expected to last until December 16, is taking place as various European countries increase security following the recent Islamist attacks in France and Austria.

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