MADRID, Spain, Aug 19 – A Spanish woman has been fined 800 euros (Sh91,000) under a controversial new public security law for posting online a photo of a police car parked in a disabled parking space, police said Wednesday.
The woman, from the southeastern city of Petrel, posted the photo on her Facebook page along with critical comments that used strong language.
Local news website Petreraldia.com reported that she took the photo down the next day but that did not stop police from fining her under the Citizens Security Law, popularly known as the “gag law”, which came into effect on July 1.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups as well as associations representing lawyers and journalists have condemned the law, which allows fines of up to 30,000 euros for use of unauthorised police images.
Petrel police inspector Fermin Bonet said two officers had left their car in the disabled space because they had to “intervene urgently” in a nearby park where youths were destroying a water basin.
He acknowledged that police had taken proceedings against the woman because they felt the photo damaged the force’s public image, rather than because it constituted a security breach.
“The police officers filed a complaint because they felt that the image of the police was attacked,” he told AFP by telephone.
“It is not because the licence plate number of the car appeared on the photo, it is not because of the language used by this lady, it is because in the end it was said that the officers had parked there for no reason, when in fact they had to intervene quickly,” he added.
Bonet said the officers could have filed a complaint even if the new law had not been adopted.
The law drawn up by Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party government also sets hefty fines for protests outside parliament and other strategic properties, including nuclear power plants.
Critics have accused the government of trying to curtail the right to free assembly and muzzle protests at a time of high unemployment.