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Spanish opposition parties challenge new ‘gag law’

MADRID (AP) — Spanish opposition parties have filed an appeal against the conservative government’s new Public Security Law, known as the “gag law,” before the Constitutional Court, a court spokeswoman said Friday.

The law, due to come into force July 1, allows for the summary expulsion of migrants caught illegally entering the country’s North African enclaves, sets hefty fines for protests outside parliament buildings or strategic installations and provides for banning unauthorized television and photographic images of police.

Five United Nations human rights special rapporteurs issued a statement in February calling for it to be repealed. Human Rights Watch also slammed the bill.

The group of five opposition parties, led by the Socialist party, lodged the complaint Thursday, saying the law contains many points that violate the Constitution.

The court spokeswoman said the tribunal will decide whether to accept the challenge for analysis over the coming weeks. If it does so, it could take up to a year or more for it to make a ruling, and the law would still go into effect, she said.

She spoke condition of anonymity in keeping with court policy.

Spanish cities have been the scene of weekly, mostly peaceful protests since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008 but the government was enraged in 2012 when tens of thousands of protesters surrounded Parliament in downtown Madrid to rail against tax hikes and cutbacks.

The bill sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) for protests near Parliament and regional lawmaking buildings when there is a “serious disturbance of public safety.”

A fine of up to 600,000 euros ($638,000) is included for unauthorized protests near key infrastructure,- including transportation hubs or nuclear power plants.

Media advocates are also concerned that the law could stifle journalists because it allows for fines of up to 30,000 euros for “unauthorized use of images” of police, including live and recorded video.

The Popular Party government says pictures of police cracking down on protests could prevent them from doing their jobs or put them at risk.

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