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February 3, 2015
February 3, 2015

Spain: New list of terrorists according to PP and PSOE penal code reform

Author: Pedro Águeda Translator: Susana García
Source: El Diario  Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: eles
Spain: New list of terrorists according to PP and PSOE penal code reform
  • The new definition of “terrorist crimes” agreed upon by the two political parties opens the door to the persecution of behaviours unrelated to jihadism.
  • Criminal law professors believe that stopping evictions or tweeting about riots during a protest could be investigated as terrorism.
  • Cybercrimes can be turned into terrorist crimes should they “seriously” destabilise “ the running of an international organisation”

With the pretence of tackling the jihadist phenomenon, the PP (People’s Party) and the PSOE (Socialist Party) have come to an agreement regarding the reform of the Penal Code which widens the definition of “terrorism” so as to include behaviours that have nothing to do with crimes that fundamental Islamists could commit, as consulted experts agreed.

Beyond the opposition to the revisable life sentence, the socialists offer their support of a concept of terrorism by which other opposition members, activists, and Criminal Law professors are alarmed: the bill introduces concepts so vague and wide that acts so far treated as criminal will now be punished with the severity terrorist acts deserve. In particular, the reform of the article 573 of the Penal Code establishes as terrorist acts such as “civil disorder” or acts against the public good that intend to “force the authorities either to carry out an act or to prevent them from doing it” or, acts simply “gravely disturbing the peace”. These are the actions and the groups who are most likely to be investigated, arrested, tried, and convicted of terrorism with the reform agreed by PSOE and PP.

Locals of Gamonal and other neighbourhoods

The rioters of the Gamonal neighbourhood aimed at stopping the construction of a boulevard approved by the City Council. What they did can be viewed as an attempt to force the “authorities” to change their position and “prevent” them from implementing their project.

The statement is in line with the new drafting of the article 537 of Penal Code that PP and PSOE want to approve. Had the Penal Code reform by the two parties been implemented, those who harmed anti-riot police could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Ministry of Interior spread the allegation of possible links between some violent protesters who arrived from outside of Gamonal and groups associated with terrorism, despite that the reports of the High Court of Castile y León stated that the demonstrator in question was a neighbourhood resident, with no criminal records, except in two occasions.

With the agreed reform, events such as those in Gamonal “will activate the anti-terrorist legislation”, warns criminal law professor Jacobo Dopico. And he adds: “Apart from the gravity of such legal reaction, there are also other very serious consequences, such as the possibility of a 5-day detention by the police or the surveillance of communications without prior judicial authorisation”

Environmentalists and animal rights activists

Do activists who show up in Tordesillas to prevent the celebration of Toro de la Vega seriously disturb the peace? If so, they’re showing the first sign of terrorism. Are they expecting the authorities to ban the festivity? If yes, they are on the terrorism radar.

And animal organisations that assault farms where animals are mistreated? Are they not committing a crime against the public good by attempting to change legislation that removes punishment for animal breeding under certain conditions? With two more affirmative answers to these questions, the die is cast for animal activists once PP and PSOE reform is passed, according to criminal law experts consulted.

The competent court for terrorism is the National Court (Audiencia Nacional). There is always the chance that the law’s ambiguous drafting allows for an investigating judge to reject a trial of terrorism and refer the charges against animal activists to a common law court.

But before that happens, professor Manuel Cancio (Universidad Autónoma) agrees, protesters may be investigated and arrested by antiterrorist police units, their communications monitored without prior judicial authorisation and arrested under a solitary confinement regime, for a maximum five day period. We should also consider the media treatment that the Ministry of Interior gives to suspects of terrorism. According to consulted experts, the PP and PSOE bill permits all of the aforementioned.

Under these parameters, Security Forces and judges would have the legal support to respond with anti-terrorist operations against those who take direct action against nuclear station infrastructure or other infrastructures that could damage the environment. They will not need to attack people, simply attacking “the public good” is sufficient.

Stopping evictions, escraches and protests against privatisations

Since the Anti-evictions Platform was formed, more than 1,000 evictions have been stopped in Spain. This means that 1,000 times a group of people managed to prevent the court, supported by the police, from executing an eviction order.

Translated into the new legal text, activists preventing a public authority from carrying out an operation. And in doing so, they committed a “civil disorder” crime. If these disturbances are not serious, they will face a fine of up to 30,000 €, according to the new Civil Protection Act. In the event of a more serious incident, they will be accused of terrorism according to the new 573 article of the Penal Code.

What is the difference between resisting an arrest that incurs a fine and resisting an arrest of a graver nature? Here the Penal Code reform that PP has passed comes and does not, at first, allude to terrorism. According to the new text, those who refuse to evacuate a premises will be committing grave civil disorder, only by passively and peacefully resisting.

The actions against evictions often leave images of activists embraced with one another and being pulled and dragged off by anti-riot police. For the Izquierda Unida (United Left) MP Gaspar Llamazares, the new anti-terrorist reform is the third-leg of an “exceptional/emergency tripod” completed with the new Civil Protection Act and the rest of Penal Code reform.

Something similar would happen with escraches, which also have been popularised in Spain by PAH. With the campaign they undertook, activists would try to pressure politicians to vote for a Popular Legislative Initiative for a non-recourse debt. Their declared goal, therefore, was “force public authorities to carry out an act or prevent them from doing it”

Again, under the drafting of the 573 article of the Penal Code renewed by socialist and conservatives groups, the same situation would be repeated with those involved in “civil disorder” protesting against privatisation of Aena or the Canal de Isabel II , as Manuel Cancio, professor of Universidad Autónoma, points out.


Internet activists who cross the line, according to the current Penal Code, also have a dedicated place in the penal code reform. The crimes they commit will now be considered terrorism “if committed with any of the purpose described in the previous section”, that is, to force public authorities to do something or stop them from doing it, disturb the peace or “seriously destabilise the running of an international organisation”.

Meaning, in the event that one or some of these hackers decide to attack the computer archives of, for instance, the International Monetary Fund, they will be committing a crime of terrorism, according to the next Spanish legislation.

The article 197 B of the current Penal Code incurs sentences between six months and two years to those who, “by any means or procedures and by infringing established security measures, gain access to data or computer programmes without authorisation contained within a computer system”.

With the text presented by PSOE and PP, hackers may be pursued for the same reasons, but now as alleged terrorists. That will be the case when they obtain information violating the computer security of people and institutions. In some cases, it involves industrial espionage or hacking, but in some others it has been about revealing important information for citizens that would have otherwise been kept secret.

Regarding cyber-activists, Carlos Sánchez Almeida, lawyer and general counsel of the Platform for the Defence of the Freedom of Expression (PDLI), highlights the case of suspects being investigated by a court in Gijón for shutting down the Junta Electoral Central during the 15M demonstrations that took place in 2011 during unauthorised dates due to their proximity to autonomous communities and local elections. With the new Penal Code, the lawyer warns, they could be accused of terrorism.

Twitter on the edge

The next terrorist legislation will include crimes committed by those who “publicly spread messages or slogans that aim at inciting others to commit some of the crimes of this chapter”. Those crimes, as previously mentioned, do not have to be necessarily connected to jihadist terrorism and they may be committed during a protest that results in riots. In this sense, Sánchez Almeida stresses the “ambiguity” of this text as enabling terrorism charges for a vast number of messages disseminated throughout the social media, similar to what happened in some post-15M calls.


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