The islamists who are imprisoned in the Galician prison of A Lama after being condemned because of the March 11th bombings, which killed 191 and hurt 1824 people, have asked the Catholic Church for help.
The seven imprisoned -sentenced from 12 to 23 years in jail- have interviewed themselves with the prison's chaplain to try to reach their goals. Their target is to make the priest intercede in their behalf to benefit from pensions, company and ill people's attention which can only be reached by the Penitentiary Catholic Service, whose boss is the priest. Volunteers of the Catholic Pastoral Service have confirmed the contacts.
Hamid Ahmidan, Abdelmajid Bouchar, Rachid Aglif, Mohamed Bouharrat, Sael el Harrak, Basel Ghalyoun and Mohamed Larbi Ben Sellam, arrived in the end of November 2007 to the Pontevedra's prison. One of them knew it already, because he spent the time before the process in it, as "preventive imprisoned". He is Hamid Ahmidan, The Chinese's cousin, one of the seven suicide terrorist of Leganés and leader of the criminal organization whose benefits -primarily from the drug trafficking- contributed to the financing of the terrorist attacks.
The seven Islamists are in the same part of the prison and are isolated from the rest of the imprisoned population in individual cells. They only are entitled to four hours in the yard and to two hours to practice sports and study. The rest of the day they are in their cells.
The Islamists' strategy to resort to the Catholic priests to improve their situation in prison, is not only used in A Lama. They already stated in their conversation with the priest that in the prisons they were before that moment, they had the assistance of Catholic priests.
A Lama's chaplain, according to the same sources, did not have any problem to speak with them in what they described as a "first contact", because that is something it's normally done with the imprisoned guys who apply for it, whether they are Catholic, Muslim or Agnostic.
"The main objective of all the Penitentiary Pastoral is the service and attention to the people who are deprived of freedom of their families, and their accompaniment and integration through workrooms, but that does not mean at all justifying their crimes or motives that could cause their internment in prison", the responsible of the program stated.
Football let them began to speak in the first meeting. Real Madrid, which had won the Spanish League those days, and the situation of the Barcelona centered the first part of the conversation between the Islamists of the March 11th terrorist attacks and the A Lama's chaplain.
After that, the imprisoned Islamists got interested in the possibility that the priest interceded for them to get benefits through the Penitentiary Pastoral to have the opportunity of receiving personal mail.
In Spain the packages for the inmates, even if they are duly inspected, before reaching them, cannot be sent by mail and should be given by hand. A job which is done generously by the team of laic volunteers to whom it's solicited for not having any relatives or because they live far away.
Even if the risk exists of recurring to one of their main enemies, the Catholic Church, to clean their image, the help petitions to Penitentiary Pastoral are something very regular among the elevated number of Muslim inmates (around 200, nearly 80% of all the foreign inmates in A Lama). Most of them are Moroccans or Algerians which are sheltered in their leave days in apartments which belong to the pastoral team.
Father Isaac, the chaplain of the Pontevedra's prison of A Lama, is cautious when being asked about the contacts maintained and states that this was only the first meeting, that it will be continued. About the fact that this group could have interviewed themselves with an Imam and not with a Catholic priest, he answers that there is freedom of belief inside the prison, "according to the Constitution" and they could have spoken with imams.
"The team of the Penitentiary Pastoral provides humanitarian and social help to the people that needs it and applies for it without asking about their religion", he assures. "It's a humanitarian service for the inmates. We don't ask them about their crimes", he concludes.