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Spanish police protest in Madrid against ‘gag law’ reform

Thousands of police protested in Madrid on Saturday over plans to reform a controversial security law banning the unauthorised use of police images if it puts them in danger.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "congress, resignation", during a demonstration called by police unions in Madrid, on November 27, 2021, to protest against proposed changes of a controversial security law known as "ley mordaza" (gag law). (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

The rally focused on plans by Spain’s left-wing government to change the citizen security law, known as the “gag law”, passed in 2015 under the previous right-wing administration at the height of the anti-austerity protests.

The reform bill aims to bring the law in line with a Constitutional Court ruling that authorisation to use images of police was “unconstitutional” because it amounted to “prior censorship”.

Waving Spanish flags and union banners, the protesters, accompanied by senior right-wing politicians, marched to the interior ministry in a rally called by Jusapol, an umbrella organisation from which emerged the police and Guardia Civil unions.

They say such reform would remove protection from police and security forces, endanger public security and reduce operational ability to stop violent demonstrations.

READ ALSO: Spain’s gag law slammed in press freedom report

“We say no to this reform. We believe the law must be adapted to current times and must be reformed, but we must never trample the rights of those responsible for security who work with this law every day,” Jusapol president Miguel Ángel Gómez told reporters.

Demonstrators wave flares as they take part in a demonstration called by police unions in Madrid. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Speaking at the march, opposition leader Pablo Casado, who heads the right-wing Popular Party, said he fully supported the protesters’ demands.

“Every day four police officers are assaulted and this is absolutely intolerable,” said Casado, urging Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “to listen to the street and to the thousands of police who have risked their lives to defend Spanish democracy and freedom.”

“It is extraordinary that for the first time in our democracy, those who risk their lives to protect us have to demonstrate because they are left unprotected,” he said earlier.

ANALYSIS: “Spain’s freedom of speech repression is no joke”

Other right-wing politicians also joined the march, among them Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party and Ines Arrimadas, head of the centre-right Ciudadanos party.

“Basically, what this law does is to remove protection from the police and criminalise them, casting doubt on them and favouring those attacking them,” said Arrimadas.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

“We are tired of the fact that in Spain criminals have more protection than the police and those who obey the law.”

Under the current law, the unauthorised use of images of police officers that could endanger their safety is a serious offence, with offenders risking fines of €600 to €10,400.

The reforms also propose changes to the fines, which would be proportional to the offenders’ income, as well as to riot control equipment with possibly the least harmful means to be used. 

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SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Three more women accuse Spanish director Vermut of sexual violence

Three more women have accused Spanish film director Carlos Vermut of sexual violence, a newspaper reported Tuesday, raising to six the total who have come forward in the past month.

Three more women accuse Spanish director Vermut of sexual violence

The latest allegations concerning independent filmmaker Vermut were reported by El País, which first broke the story at the end of January publishing testimony from three women who said he had subjected them to sexual violence.

The latest victims, all of whom work in the cultural sector, had some form of relationship with the 43-year-old director, who won two top prizes at the 2014 San Sebastian film festival for “Magical Girl”, his second feature.

A rising star within Spain’s independent film circles, Vermut — whose real name is Carlos López del Rey — has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in several interviews with El País.

The latest incidents allegedly occurred between October 2012 and the start of January this year when they say Vermut forced them to engage in sexual practices they had not agreed to.

“The sex was very rough, he really hurt me,” one told the newspaper, saying he had forced her to have anal sex, causing “tearing”.

Another spoke about sex involving “beatings, choking and verbal humiliation”, describing it as “not a game, nor a non-conventional practice, but violence for violence’s sake”.

The third, an actress who began a relationship with him in March 2023 which lasted until January, spoke of two episodes of enforced sexual violence after months of psychological abuse.

As with the first three, these latest victims also asked to remain anonymous and none of them filed a police complaint for fear of not being believed, the paper said.

The director did not respond to the paper’s request for comment this time.

‘Rough but consensual sex’

Previously, he was interviewed by the paper three times, denying the allegations and saying he was not “aware of having exercised sexual violence against any woman”.

“I have always practised rough sex in a consensual manner,” he said.

The revelations shook Spanish cinema which appears to be only lately feeling the effects of the #Metoo movement which emerged in 2017 and saw a string of major figures from the world of cinema accused of sexual violence.

Several testimonies also emerged about another less-known director Armando Ravelo, with one female artist saying he offered to give her drugs and show her porn when she was 14.

In mid-February, Spain’s culture ministry said it would set up a unit to tackle abuse allegations within the sector.

Last summer, Spanish football was rocked by a scandal when the now disgraced football chief Luis Rubiales forcibly kissed Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso.

Banned by FIFA for three years, he’s now facing trial on charges of sexual assault and coercion.

Also this month, a Barcelona court jailed former Brazil star Dani Alves for four years and six months for raping a young woman at a nightclub in the city.

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