Rights activists, attorneys, journalists call on European court to overturn Spain’s anti-protest law

Demonstration against Spain's Ley Mordaza (‘Gag Law’). Photo: AFP via The Local
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• Lawsuit filed over law’s restrictions on free speech and assembly

• Fines under Spain’s so-called ‘gag law’ range from 600 to 600,000 euros

A coalition of Spanish human rights activists, journalists and lawyers known as Defender a quien defiende (“To Defend Those Who Defend”) has called on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to overturn a Spanish law passed earlier this year that they say attacks freedom of information and the right to free assembly.

Passed earlier this year by a majority vote of the ruling conservative Partido Popular (PP) in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, the so-called Law for Citizens’ Security (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana) took effect on July 1, 2015 and carries stiff penalties and fines of 600 euros for anyone charged with “disrespecting a police officer” and a fine of as much as 600,000 euros for staging a protest that is not approved and authorized in advance by the government. The law also makes it a crime to photograph police officers.

Human rights activists and attorneys say the law unduly restricts basic freedoms of speech and assembly, while journalists say the law negatively impacts their ability to document police activities and capture instances of police abuse of their powers.

The lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights calls on the court to immediately repeal the Spanish law. Spain’s main opposition PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos political parties have each pledged to repeal the law if they obtain a majority in upcoming Dec. 20th national elections.

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