Ahmed Toummouhi had been waiting years for “the truth”.
These were the words written in the ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court that has overturned his conviction after serving 15 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.
The high court that has now exonerated Toummouhi suggested in 1999 that he should apply for a pardon. But at the time the 72-year-old former builder refused to do it because he claimed that a pardon was for guilty people, but he was innocent.
He was eventually released from prison in 2006 and never wavered in his story that he was innocent: years later the justice system proved him right.
Toummouhi was arrested in 1991 in Catalonia and accused of committing several rapes, three victims pointed him out in the police lineup due to his extraordinary resemblance with the real rapist Antonio Carbonell.
That was almost all the evidence it took to convict Toummouhi, and another man of North African origin, in the brutal rapes.
But when new evidence came to light, the Supreme Court admitted the first mistake in one of the rape cases, when they were able to compare DNA samples with the real rapist. This evidence never went before the court at the time of Toummouhi’s original trial.
Last Thursday the same court acknowledged the second wrongful conviction.
Toummouhi is still waiting for his innocence to be recognised in the third and last rape case for which he was convicted.
During his years of struggle he kept claiming: “I want my honour back. They took it away by the face”.
‘Forgetting about the outside world’
“I have been, and I am, f····· up. Nobody can give me back the last years I’ve lived, or that I have not lived… I hope that what happened to me never happens to anyone else,” Toummouhi told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo during an interview.
He says that what kept him alive in prison were the daily calls to his daughter in Nador, the constant support of his brother Omar and the help of a Guardia Civil officer who wanted justice.
His case is unique, in the 1990s there was a wave of brutal rapes committed by two men in Barcelona and other Catalan cities.
Investigators closed the case after arresting both Toummouhi, a former builder, and Abderrazak Mounib, a street vendor from Fez who died in prison in 2000.
There was no incriminating evidence against them, nor could it be proved that the two men knew each other, but in an identification parade victims pointed at Toummouhi and that was enough to convict him.
In addition to this, the rapist spoke Caló, which is the gypsy language, and the victims, who had never heard it before, mistook it for Arabic.
Toummouhi told the Spanish press he did not fully understand what had happened to him until he got to prison, as his knowledge of Spanish was very limited.
Going to prison was a reality shock: “I didn’t want to receive letters, or to hear my family and friends… To survive I had to forget about the outside world”.
Last January, Toummouhi’s lawyer filed an appeal to review his conviction claiming that there were new “elements of evidence and facts”.
It was then he finally got what he had been longing for since his conviction.
When he was asked why he had not returned to his native Morocco after being released from prison, he said: “How can I go back to Morocco having spent years in prison? I came from my country to have a better future, I don’t want to go back worse than when I came”.