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Hamid Barbach, the secretary of the mosque in Ripoll where Abdelbaki es-Satty, alleged mastermind of the 2017 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, was imam has said that the Spanish police had been in contact with the mosque three times asking for him directly.

Barbach was speaking to the special commission investigating the 2017 attacks held today in Ripoll, a small town in the north of Catalonia. Responding to a direct question from CUP deputy Natàlia Sánchez, Barbach said that Spanish police visited the staff of the Islamic association Annour three times.

The first time, Barbach wasn't there, but on the second occasion police asked him for Es-Satty, "to find out if he was still there, for how things were". Specifically, it involved two National Police agents who questioned him for around 10 minutes. They asked "personal question about the imam" and "how to find him".

The third and final contact before the attacks took place by phone. "They called the mosque's phone directly on a private number," the secretary said. On that occasion, they asked only one question: for the organisation's registration number. They printed out a copy of the registration and left it in their letterbox for police to collect.

Barbach emphasised that the association is "peaceful" and works for integration. He also said that he had personally tried to encourage one of those who would go on to take part in the attacks, Mohamed Hichamy, to join the association, but that he didn't want to.

The spokesperson

The secretary wasn't at the mosque the first time police visited, but Ali Yassine, Annour's spokesperson was. He has confirmed to El Nacional that Es-Satty wasn't there at the time either, but that he was in Ripoll. According to Yassine, as it wasn't time for prayers, he was at home. On that occasion, the police were interested "in the imam's name, his address and the time he'd been in the role", he said.

He added that after the attacks, the National Police had visited the mosque at least three further times for "routine checks" and that they've also "asked questions about the new imam".

After the attacks

After the attacks, police tapped a large number of phones of people close to the terrorists. A alleged leak of investigation documents claimed that the new imam of Ripoll told the dead attackers' relatives that "they've gone to heaven".

The spokesperson today strongly denied this. "The new imam doesn't know any of the terrorists' families, he's never seen them, has never gone to their houses nor spoken with any of them," he said. "He didn't even express sympathy to them," he continued.