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CRIME

Spanish police free Moroccan migrants held for ransom

Spanish police said Saturday they had freed two Moroccan migrants who were kidnapped as soon as they entered Spain illegally by ferry and who were being beaten and held for ransom.

Spanish police free Moroccan migrants held for ransom
The kidnapped migrants had been held in a flat in the port city of Algeciras. Photo: AFP

The two men smuggled themselves into a ferry in Tangier bound for the southern Spanish port of Algeciras in early October by clinging to the undercarriage of a freight truck that boarded the boat, police said in a statement.

As soon as they arrived in Algeciras they were approached by two other Moroccan men who lured them to an apartment in the city with the promise of food and the chance to take a bath after the trip.

The migrants were tied up and beaten and their family members received threatening phone calls demanding €4,000-5,000 ($4,400-5,500) to secure their release.

Police began their investigation after receiving a complaint from the wife of one of the kidnapped men who lives in the northern city of Lugo.

They received a tip from someone in Morocco who said two men were being held at an apartment in Algeciras and when they raided the flat they found the two kidnapped migrants.

“Both kidnapped men had suffered injuries, and one of them even told the officers that he had thought of throwing himself out the window if they were not freed by police,” the statement.

Police arrested the two suspected kidnappers, one was outside the apartment and the other inside.

Thousands of migrants tried to reach Spain from Morocco each year.

Many try to smuggle themselves across the border to Ceuta and Melilla, two tiny Spanish territories that border Morocco, hidden in cars while others cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats or hidden on ferries.

CRIME

Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

Spain's Justice Ministry has caused outrage after it sent out a tweet explaining how foreign nationals can cancel their criminal record online themselves in order to gain Spanish citizenship. 

Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

It may seem like a dark joke sent out by a disgruntled civil servant, but Spain’s Justice Ministry has indeed informed the country’s 6 million foreigners – including those who’ve committed crimes in the past – how to wipe their criminal history from the system.

“Criminal records can be a problem when it comes to obtaining Spanish nationality or applying for or renewing residence permits,” the ministry headed by Pilar Llop tweeted on Sunday. 

“Here we explain step by step how to request the cancellation of criminal records,” the Justice Ministry went on to say, followed by a link to a video describing the process. 

In the video posted on June 7th 2022, which has so far more than 24,000 views, a narrator goes on to explain that through the digital transformation process that the Justice Ministry is currently undergoing, it’s possible for anyone to personally and officially delete their own criminal record.

“That means that your sentence can be cancelled without you having to apply for it,” the video stressed.

This reportedly applies to both criminal records and sexual conviction records.

Logically, the tweet has caused a mix of incredulity and anger on the Spanish twittersphere, with comments such as “they’re mad”, “is it a joke?”, “God save us” or “instead of kicking foreign criminals out they’re helping them”.

The truth is that the possibility of expunging a criminal record in Spain has already existed for 27 years, as has the option of a foreigner with a criminal record being able to obtain Spanish nationality.

What has changed is the possibility of an automated system allowing citizens, Spanish nationals and foreigners alike, to carry out the expunging process online themselves, rather than having to apply for the Justice Ministry to do it for them. 

What’s also novel, many would say alarming, is that Spain’s Justice Ministry has made this public knowledge to many more people in Spain after their tweet went viral. 

Artículo 136 of Spain’s Penal Code allows people with a criminal record to cancel it once a certain period of time has elapsed and if they have not committed any other felony since the initial sentence. 

For those with minor sentences, the criminal record can be removed after six months whereas for serious crimes (5+ years in prison) the wait is ten years, higher if they’re charged with more than one crime. 

However, there doesn’t appear to be any lifetime prohibition from expunging criminal records for those who have committed the most heinous crimes, meaning that foreign rapists, murderers and paedophiles could technically cancel their criminal records if they met the aforementioned conditions and become Spanish nationals.

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