SHARE
COPY LINK

SPANISH LAW

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

Spain's right-wing opposition is infuriated over government plans to abolish sedition, the charge used against Catalan separatist leaders, decrying the move as a gift to pro-independence parties in exchange for parliamentary support.

Why Spain's right is vehemently opposed to changes to sedition law
Catalonia's 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. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Parliament on Thursday approved a bill to reform the criminal code to drop what Spain’s left-wing coalition government sees as an antiquated offence, replacing it with one better aligned with modern European norms.

And the change should be in place before the year’s end, Spanish media reports say.

In response, the far-right Vox party has called a protest in Madrid on Sunday, while the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) has convened rallies across the country to express its opposition.

Right-wing parties say eliminating sedition — the charge used to convict and jail nine Catalan separatists over their involvement with a failed 2017 independence bid — will pave the way for another attempt to separate from Spain.

Initially condemned to between nine and 13 years behind bars, the separatists were pardoned last year by the leftist government, drawing fury from the Spanish right.

“Great for those in Catalonia who want to stage another coup!” PP lawmaker Edurne Uriarte told a parliamentary debate over the planned law changes.

Like European democracies

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.

Spain says its efforts to have them extradited have failed because many European countries simply don’t recognise sedition as a crime, with the bill seeking to reframe the offence as an “aggravated public disorder”.

The bill aims “to reform the crime of sedition and replace it with an offence comparable to what they have in other European democracies,” Sánchez said earlier this month.

“The crimes committed in 2017 will continue to be present in our penal code, although no longer as crimes of sedition… but as a new type of crime called an aggravated public disorder,” he said.

But even Puigdemont has expressed misgivings about the legal change, saying those separatists celebrating the move “have learned nothing from the last five years”.

The new offence would carry a maximum penalty of five years behind bars, compared with 15 years for the crime of sedition.

Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo asked Sánchez to “clarify whether he is actually reforming the crime of sedition to protect Spanish democracy or whether he is just trying to politically survive” — implying the bill was payback for pro-independence party support in parliament.

“The PP’s stance is clear: we will increase the penalties for sedition and rebellion, we will make them criminal offences and will make the holding of an illegal referendum a crime,” he said of his party’s position, with a general election on the horizon.

Some reluctance on the left

The PP managed to ensure Thursday’s vote was vocal, a rare procedure in Spain in which lawmakers verbally declare their support or opposition for a bill, in a move forcing the more reluctant Socialists to lay their cards clearly on the table.

Spain’s criminal code currently defines sedition as “publicly rising up and using mass disorder to prevent the implementation of laws, by force or through means outside the law”.

More succinctly, the Royal Academy of Spanish Language defines it as a “collective and violent uprising against authority, against public order or military discipline without reaching the gravity of rebellion”.

The crime has survived various reforms of the legal code, the last of which was in 1995, but its critics say it dates back to the 19th century.

“We are revising a crime that was enacted in 1822 in Spain, dating back 200 years to when there were still military uprisings,” Sanchez said earlier this month, pointing to Germany, where sedition was abolished in 1970.

But reclassifying it as an aggravated public disorder hasn’t satisfied some on the left who fear it could be used against demonstrators.

“It concerns us… (that the new offence) could have some limiting effect on the right to peaceful protest,” argued Pablo Echenique, spokesman for the hard-left Podemos, the Socialists’ junior coalition partner which was behind the moves to abolish sedition.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

STRIKES

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Wednesday is due to be a difficult day in Catalonia with planned stoppages across three different sectors in health, education, and taxi services.

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Medical staff

The union Metges de Catalunya has called for five days of strikes for doctors and medical staff across Catalonia on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th, as well as February 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

They are demanding more resources and personnel for the Catalan public health system and between 25 to 28 patient appointments per work shift of 12 minutes each.

READ ALSO – Key dates: How planned health service strikes in Spain could affect you

After an unsuccessful meeting on Tuesday, January 24th to try and resolve issues and further talks on Wednesday morning that didn’t lead to any resolution, 25,000 health professionals from health centers and hospitals across the region have been called to strike. They have not demonstrated en masse like this in Catalonia since 2018.

Some 500 nurses and midwives also took to the streets on Tuesday, January 24th to ask for better working conditions. Their protest continues this Wednesday, when both nurses and doctors have gathered to march to Sants train station, where they are due to arrive at midday. 

The regional government has agreed to guarantee urgent health care as well as that of the neonatal units and vital chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

Teachers

Teachers and other educational professionals have also been called to strike with two days of planned walkouts on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th.

After a series of unproductive negotiations with the Minister of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, the unions Ustec, CCOO and UGT decided to go ahead with the stoppages.  

The unions have said that the simultaneous strikes in education and health make perfect sense as they are “two pillars” of society that should be a priority for the government.

The union Ustec demands that the regional government should invest 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in public education as established by the Education Law of Catalonia. They are also asking to reduce the ratios in the classes and improve the working conditions of educational professionals. 

Schools will remain open during these days, however, and minimum services have been established such as guaranteeing 50 percent of the staff in special education centers and nurseries.

Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers have also joined in the protests and will stage a four-hour strike on Barcelona’s Gran Via this Wednesday, against driver apps such as Free Now, Uber and Bolt.

Negotiations between The Elite Taxi union and the city council broke down last week and the union has called drivers to gather from 10am to 2pm on Gran Via with Plaza Tetuán and on Passeig de Gràcia.

Taxi drivers will also be voting on whether to protest during the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and Mobile World Congress fairs. ISE will be held from January 1st to February 3rd and Mobile World Congress from February 27th to March 2nd.  

SHOW COMMENTS