ANGER was growing in Catalonia yesterday after it emerged that Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) helped the mastermind of the Barcelona terror attacks to become an imam in Ripoll, where the jihadist cell was based.

Abdelbaki Es Satty was recruited by the CNI as an informant in 2014, in exchange for him not being deported after serving a four-year jail term for trafficking drugs, according to the latest revelations reported by the digital newspaper Público.

He was jailed after being caught driving a van containing 136 kilos (300lbs) of hashish and argued in his defence that an Islamist group had forced him to transport it.

Público said the secret service “fixed recommendations and guarantors” so Satty could become an imam in Ripoll, the intention being for him to infiltrate European jihadist networks.

CNI’s confidential report on Satty, quoted by journalist Carlos Enrique Bayo, indicate that he showed potential signs of Islamist radicalisation, such as radical behaviour, religious orthodoxy and explicit support for the Taliban.

“It is interesting that neither the testimonies appeared in the press of prison officials to recognise how Satty really was, nor does the CNI admit it either,” said Publico.

“No-one may want to relate to the attempt to capture an authentic jihadist to work as a state confidant.”

However, Bayo suggests that Satty’s controllers noticed a change in his attitude in March 2012 after he was transferred to the city of Ceuta for an oral hearing to confirm that he would be deported to Morocco at the end of his sentence.

“Without a doubt, he also knew that only with his change of behaviour was he going to avoid that expulsion. And the first visit he received by members of the Civil Guard was almost immediate.”

Publico quoted anonymous intelligence sources saying that CNI agents visited Satty shortly before his release and signed an agreement for him to act as a secret service informant once he was free. In return, he received a guarantee that he would not be deported, despite officials’ attempts to do just that.

Satty’s lawyers fought that bid, which was overturned by a court in Castellón, because the crime for which he was jailed did not imply a threat, “neither for public order nor for citizen security”.

They also presented the judge with documents showing he had been registered with social security for more than six years and had a permit to work, which would allow him to remain a resident in Spain.

Catalan President Quim Torra said Spain had some explaining to do, tweeting: “We request explanations from the Spanish government about the published information that questions the official version on the role of the CNI in the monitoring of the jihadist cell that was attacking Barcelona and Cambrils.”

Scots lawyer Aamer Anwar, an eye-witness to the Barcelona attack, added: “With 15 dead and victims from 35 different countries – it’s time that Spain stopped blocking an independent inquiry into Barcelona terror attack – ‘The dead cannot cry out for justice but it is the duty of the living to do so for them’.”

Meanwhile, the group International Trial Watch (ITW), whose observers monitored the four-month trial of Catalan independence leaders, has prepared a “shadow report” on the proceedings for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The 13-page report will be presented at a Universal Periodic Review to be held in Spain at a session of the Human Rights Council in January.

In it, the group repeats its previous criticism of several aspects of the leaders’ case, their continuing detention and a perceived breach of their right to a fair trial.

“The arbitrary application of rules or the lack of respect for basic procedural safeguards of a judicial process is a violation of the right to a fair trial,” said ITW, adding: “During the development of the trial, the court’s impartiality has been compromised on several occasions.”