Spain approves security laws decried by rights groups
Spain's lower house of parliament on Thursday approved two new security laws which rights groups warn will curb the right to protest, freedom of the press and the right to asylum.
The ruling conservative Popular Party used its absolute majority in the assembly to pass the bills, which were opposed by all opposition parties and have sparked numerous noisy street demonstrations.
One law reforms Spain's criminal code to reintroduce the possibility of life sentences for especially heinous crimes, such as the murder of a child or handicapped person or for acts of terrorism.
Anyone convicted of such crimes would get a life sentence but could be released after serving between 25 and 35 years, depending on the crime and if they can prove in court they have been rehabilitated.
The second law, which the government calls the Citizens' Security Law, allows for people to be slapped with fines for public order offences without having to go before a judge.
The fines could reach up to 600,000 euros ($655,000) for the more serious offences, such as for unauthorised demonstrations near key infrastructure such as transport hubs, nuclear power plants or refineries if they pose a threat to people or disrupt public services.
The law calls for fines of up to 30,000 euros for about two dozens offences, such as for unauthorised demonstrations near the national or regional parliaments if they are deemed to pose a serious security risk or damaging cars, rubbish bins and other urban furniture during a protest.
The security law will also authorise police to immediately deport migrants who arrive at Spain's north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which have Europe's only two land borders with Africa.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government, which is facing a year-end general election, has repeatedly defended the two bills, saying they will improve public security by targeting the protesters who are prone to violence and will protect the freedom of law abiding citizens.
But opposition parties and civil society groups say they limit free expression and disregard democracy in a country that only emerged from lengthy right-wing dictatorship in the mid 1970s.
© 2015 AFP