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PP and PSOE to draft joint terror law

Source: El Pais - Sun 18th Jan 2015
PP and PSOE to draft joint terror law

Spain's ruling Partido Popular and the PSOE opposition have agreed to jointly draft anti-terrorist legislation aimed at addressing the jihadist threat.

On Tuesday, interior and justice ministers Jorge Fernández and Rafael Catalá met with a Socialist delegation and decided to draw up a bill in the coming weeks, then submit it to Congress for fast-track approval.

The deal was brokered by PM Mariano Rajoy and Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, who spoke on the phone on Tuesday morning, and is open to other political parties to also join. These will meet with the government and the main opposition group in the coming days.

While the government was already planning to reform the penal code to adapt it to the current terrorist threat, the attacks in Paris last week have given Spanish leaders a new sense of urgency.

Now, the country's two main political forces will design a new organic law – a piece of key legislation whose passing would require an absolute majority in Congress – to address international terrorism, and more specifically terrorist activities by radical Islamists.

Until now, Spain's terrorism legislation had been aimed at fighting organized groups such as ETA, the Basque separatist organization that announced a permanent cessation of activities in 2011 after over 40 years of violence.

The new law will address the issue of lone-wolf terrorists and punish the recruitment and training of future combatants. This would make it possible to jail individuals who travel for jihadist training to countries such as Yemen or Syria.

Intelligence services are also concerned about online videos in which known jihadists call for the reconquest of Al-Andalus, the name given to the parts of Spain and Portugal that were under Arab rule in medieval times.

Authorities raised the national terror threat level to three following the Paris attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and deployed more police to critical infrastructure sites and crowded public places. On March 11, 2004, Madrid suffered an Islamist terrorist attack against commuter trains that killed 191 people and injured 1,800.

The basis for the new bill will be the 12 amendments to the penal code already presented unilaterally by the PP. In order to speed up the process, the entire section concerning terrorism will be pulled out of the penal code reform project and treated separately.

These amendments include a few controversial ideas, such as sanctioning internet users who "regularly" consult websites that show terrorists being trained. Critics have pointed out that this could unfairly target scholars or individuals who are simply curious about these public domain sites. Sources at the Interior Ministry said they were ready to change the text if necessary.

The government is also working on an executive plan against terrorism that does not require any legal reforms. The Rajoy administration has been quietly working on the plan for the last two years to address the threat from radical Islamists, but unfolding events in France have pushed the project forward.

The Strategic National Plan to Fight Violent Radicalization is based on the previous Socialist government's own counter-terrorism plan, which was secretly approved in 2010.

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