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Gibraltar row heats up after ‘jet ski shooting’

The tiny British-held territory of Gibraltar, known as The Rock, has protested to British Prime Minister David Cameron of repeated Spanish incursions into its waters as a diplomatic row grows over allegations that Spanish police fired shots at a jet ski.

Gibraltar row heats up after 'jet ski shooting'
Footage claiming to have captured the image involving the jet ski and the Spanish patrol boat has been posted online. Photo: YouTube

Spain's government has flatly denied accusations that its police fired shots while chasing a jet ski on Sunday in waters off Gibraltar and it has criticized Britain for giving credence to rumours.

As the dispute mounted, Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo sent a letter to Cameron, according to a statement late on Wednesday by the territory's government.

In it, he complained that Spanish incursions into British territorial waters at Gibraltar "constitute a serious challenge to Gibraltar's jurisdiction and British sovereignty".

Picard said Spanish military-linked Guardia Civil police shot at the jet ski inside British territorial waters, an incident he described as "dangerous and wholly unacceptable".

"Diplomatic action to date appears to have had no material effect and I fear that Spain will not be deterred by yet another verbal protest no matter how robust," he said.

"It is important that Spain feels the true weight of British reaction to continuing violations of our sovereignty."

Britain's Minister for Europe David Lidington protested the "illegal incursion" to his Spanish counterpart during a European Union meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

And the British embassy's number two man in Madrid, Daniel Pruce, has demanded from the Spanish foreign ministry a "full explanation".

But a spokesman for Spain's foreign ministry told AFP there was no shooting and expressed disquiet that Britain was repeating an "unverified and unfounded rumour".

In Gibraltar, the man reportedly at the centre of the incident, 32-year-old David Villa, told online news site Olive Press that he had been testing his new jet ski with family and friends on Sunday when the Spanish police gave chase.

"There were three policemen on the boat and I actually saw one of them with a gun in his hand," he was quoted as saying.

"I was just about to drop my friend off at West Beach when I heard the first shot."

On Tuesday, the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) posted what it says is footage of the incident.

In the video, a boat and a jet ski are both visible. In an accompanying story published on their website, the broadcaster argues that shots are audible a few seconds into the footage.

A member of staff at the GBC television newsroom told The Local that the footage had been provided anonymously "by someone we know" but did not provide further information.

In November, Spain and Britain summoned each other's ambassadors in a spat over a series of naval incidents around the small but strategically situated territory.

Britain has held Gibraltar since 1713 but Spain wants it returned and refuses to recognize British sovereignty over the waters off the land known as 'the Rock'.

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ABORTION

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.

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