Spain pardons longest-serving petty crook

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain on Friday pardoned its longest-jailed petty criminal, who has been behind bars almost continuously on accumulated sentences since 1976, the government said.

Miguel Montes Neiro, 61, has never committed the class of serious violent crime that gets the longest sentences in Spain, but has been in and out of jail for a string of 30 lesser convictions.

The outgoing Socialist government granted the pardon at its last cabinet meeting before it hands over to a new conservative administration next week, its spokesman Jose Blanco told reporters.

Montes' family had submitted a petition signed by 50,000 people via online social networks.

"It is a dream come true. He is coming home," his sister Encarnacion Montes, 64, told AFP. "Some people will say he has been lucky, but this is justice."

Montes first went to jail in 1976 for deserting from the army in his twenties. His ensuing jail career was interrupted by several spells on the run during which he fathered two daughters.

During his escapes he committed fresh offences including armed robbery, drugs trafficking and possessing arms, according to El Pais newspaper, which along with other media called him Spain's longest-serving common-law prisoner.

His last escape was in 2009 when he disappeared for three weeks after being let out to go to his mother's funeral.

His lawyer Felix Angel Martin Garcia criticised the accumulation of Montes' sentences which led him to serve a term usually reserved for murder and other serious violent crimes.

A life sentence in Spain is capped at 30 years, rising to 40 years for terrorist offences.

If he had been kept in jail to the end of all his accumulated sentences, Montes would not have been released until 2021, the lawyer said.

Spanish media said he would not be freed immediately, pending court decisions on other outstanding charges against him.

Montes has been held in various prisons, finishing up in the southern city of Granada.

© 2011 AFP

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