Spain seeks harsher laws for terrorists and sex offenders

12th September 2008, Comments 1 comment

The Spanish justice ministry is seeking to implement stiffer sentences for unreformed ex-convicts which include a 20-year surveillance period after they have served their prison terms.

12 September 2008

MADRID -- If the Justice Ministry gets its way, Spain will soon reform its Penal Code and slap stiffer sentences on terrorists, paedophiles and rapists. With the support of the opposition Popular Party, the Socialist government aims to propose a discretionary 20-year surveillance period for convicted terrorists and sex offenders after they have served their prison terms.

This measure would apply to convicts whom the prison's review board believes have not been fully rehabilitated despite serving a prison term.

The reforms, which were announced on Wednesday by Justice Minister Mariano Fernández Bermejo and Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, aim to avoid cases such as that of José Rodríguez Salvador, who was sentenced to more than 300 years in prison for raping 17 women in the 1980s, but was set free in 2007 after a Barcelona court rejected prosecutors' appeals to keep him behind bars.

Another case that has caused public indignation is that of Iñaki De Juana Chaos, a high-profile former ETA terrorist who was freed earlier this year after spending 20 years in prison.

Another reform is the proposed creation of a directory for paedophiles, besides opening up the possibility of voluntary chemical castration for sex offenders.

But terrorists and sex offenders are not the only ones who will see stiffer sentences.

The reform aims to hand down harsher terms of up to 12 years to burglars and those who help illegal immigrants enter the country.

With respect to new, harsher penalties for paedophiles and child pornographers, Fernández Bermejo pointed out that the change corresponded to a commitment by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to clamp down on sex offenses involving minors.

Harsher on terrorists

The Interior Ministry claimed that Spain's antiterrorist laws are among strictest in the world. With the application of the reforms, it is unlikely that a convicted terrorist who is serving a 40-year term for murder would commit another crime after being released.

However, if there is any doubt, a 20-year surveillance period can be imposed after they are freed.

Moreover, terrorists who have served prison terms will not be permitted - as now - to live near their victims. The current statute of limitations of 20 years for serious terrorist offenses will be removed.

Referring to the reform plans, Pérez Rubalcaba said recently that street names paying tribute to ETA terrorists in the Basque Country would be "taken away" and "never seen again".

[El Pais / Julio M. Lazaro / Expatica]

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