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‘Sniper’ who threatened to kill Spain’s PM sentenced to jail

A Spanish court has sentenced to seven and a half years in jail a gun enthusiast who threatened to kill Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, according to the ruling released on Tuesday.

'Sniper' who threatened to kill Spain's PM sentenced to jail
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's former number 2, Unidas Podemos's Pablo Iglesias, also received bullets in the post in 2021. (Photo by Filip SINGER / POOL / AFP)

Manuel Murillo Sánchez (no relation to the Spanish Prime Minister), a 65-year-old security guard from the northeastern city of Terrassa, was arrested in September 2018 after police were alerted to messages he shared with a right-wing WhatsApp group.

He told members of the group he was furious at the prime minister’s plans to exhume late dictator Francisco Franco from his high-profile resting place near Madrid, an operation that finally took place in October 2019.

“We can’t let them humiliate the Generalísimo,” he wrote in one message according to the National Court ruling dated April 11th and released on Tuesday.

“If it is needed I will go armed and will sit on Franco’s tomb and if they come near I will shoot.”

“I am a sniper and with one precise shot I can end Sánchez. Before he completely sinks Spain.”

Murillo Sánchez expressed on several occasions his intention to “end” the premier’s life to “produce a change in Spain’s political situation”, and requested help from members of the group to carry out his plan, the ruling said.

While the man did not have “a definitively concocted plan”, the court said it took into consideration the danger represented by his “determination” and the weapons found in his house.

The court found him guilty of unlawful possession of weapons and explosives and plotting to commit murder and sentenced him to 7.5 years in prison, said the ruling.

When he was arrested, police found several weapons and ammunition, including a handmade crossbow, at his home, the court said.

The court also banned him from owning weapons for eight years.

It rejected his argument that he had been under the influence of alcohol and tranquilisers when he made his threats again the prime minister.

The Spanish government said at the time of his arrest that the prime minister’s security “had never been compromised”.

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SPANISH POLITICS

Far-right Vox leads mass protests against Spain’s government

Tens of thousands of supporters from Spain's far-right Vox party demonstrated nationwide on Sunday to protest Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's leftist government.

Far-right Vox leads mass protests against Spain's government

Police said 25,000 people gathered in central Madrid’s Colon Square, where protesters unfurled flags and called on Sánchez to go, while demonstrations also took place in cities across Spain.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal denounced a “government of treason, insecurity and ruin” after recent changes to the criminal code and the approval of a new law against sexual violence.

READ MORE: Why Spain’s right is vehemently opposed to changes to sedition law

He lambasted the planned abolition of the crime of sedition, of which nine separatist leaders were convicted over their role in the Catalonia region’s abortive secession bid in 2017. An offence carrying a lower prison sentence will replace it.

“We have a government that governs against the people, lowers prison sentences for crimes, disarms the police,” Abascal told his followers in the Spanish capital.

The right believes the modified criminal code, which should be in place by the end of the year, will encourage further attempts to separate the northeastern Catalonia region from Spain.

“We are being governed by separatists, people who don’t want to be Spanish, that’s why I’m here,” said protester Cesar Peinado, a 65-year-old retired truck driver, accusing the government of “buying votes”.

Abascal said sexual assaults had doubled since Socialist premier Sánchez took power in 2018 and denounced a law he claimed allowed rapists and paedophiles to leave prison earlier.

READ MORE: Why is Spain reducing prison sentences for rapists?

He was referring to a flagship government law against sexual violence that toughened penalties for rape but eased sentences for other sexual crimes, setting some convicts free after their jail terms were reduced.

Supporters of far-right party Vox Santiago Abascal (unseen) hold a placard reading “liar, elections now” as they gather during an anti-government protest in Madrid, on November 27th 2022. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

María Dolores López, 58, told AFP she could “no longer put up with what this government is doing”, citing its policy towards the Catalan separatists and its law against sexual violence.

“It isn’t a coincidence that there’s no security either,” Abascal added, denouncing “a crazy minister who makes a law with the approval of the entire government, the political and media left so that rapists and paedophiles end up on the streets”.

The ruling left-wing coalition has long drawn the ire of the right and far right for initiating a dialogue with Catalonia’s pro-independence leaders, with large protests taking place in 2019 and 2021 over the talks.

Lacking a parliamentary majority, Sánchez’s government has been forced since its formation to negotiate with Basque and Catalan separatists to pass bills.

The coalition says sedition is an antiquated offence that should be replaced with one better aligned to European norms.

The nine Catalan separatists initially sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison under the sedition law were pardoned last year, also infuriating the right.

The failed independence bid sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades, with then-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and several others fleeing abroad to escape prosecution.

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