March 29, 2016 / 4:22 PM / 2 years ago

Spanish court says to try alleged Islamists, renews request for US help

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s High Court said on Tuesday it would try six alleged members of an Islamist cell and would also renew its request for help from the United States to retrieve emails and social media posts belonging to the men.

Investigating magistrate Jose de la Mata wrote in a ruling that the court was ready to try the men, arrested in January last year in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization.

However, De la Mata said that after several meetings and discussions with U.S. authorities, a request for them to ask Microsoft and Facebook to release profiles and emails related to the case had not been met.

“Despite all of this, it has not been possible to get the required international cooperation from the United States,” the magistrate said in the ruling. The court has given U.S. judicial authorities extensive information about the High Court’s investigation upon request, he added.

The Spanish request comes after a major controversy in the United States over a legal battle waged by the U.S. Justice Department to get Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, at the end of last year.

The Justice Department eventually succeeded in unlocking the phone without Apple, which had argued that the case set a dangerous precedent.

De la Mata said the Spanish court would lodge a fresh request for help with the U.S. authorities while pressing ahead with the trial. U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment on the case.

In Spain investigating magistrates can take on a case and pursue claims against suspects to back them up before the case is formally ready for trial.

The six men are being held in prison as a preventative measure.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Angus Berwick and Gareth Jones

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