Freedoms in Spain have been protected

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The Independent Online

After the Madrid bombings, Spain's incoming Socialist government reshaped the country's anti-terrorist strategy to target al-Qa'ida Islamists rather than Eta Basque separatists, in a package of measures approved yesterday.

After the Madrid bombings, Spain's incoming Socialist government reshaped the country's anti-terrorist strategy to target al-Qa'ida Islamists rather than Eta Basque separatists, in a package of measures approved yesterday.

But no Spanish politician has ever challenged Spain's underlying anti-terrorist framework developed over decades of combating Eta, which is based on the 1978 constitution drafted after 40 years of dictatorship.

Measures adopted yesterday include stricter control of the transport and use of explosives; recruitment of hundreds more anti-terrorist security officials and Arab speakers; freezing of terrorist funds and stricter controls of bank accounts; more comprehensive data bases pooled among the police, paramilitary civil guard and the intelligence service; control and isolation of Islamist prisoners; and beefed-up border controls and international anti-terror links.

In the 1980s, the Socialist government was so badly discredited by state attempts to pursue Eta suspects with undercover hit squads that no government since has dared step outside Spain's rigidly defined constitutional framework.

In 2003, the conservative government strengthened penalties for terrorist crimes. The Socialists urged the Conservatives to consider anti-terrorism measures above party differences as a matter of national consensus.

The limits of any anti-terrorist legislation are defined by article 17 of Spain's constitution. According to the article, everyone has the right to liberty and no one can be deprived of their freedom except under the following conditions: preventive detention cannot last longer than the time needed to clarify facts. After a maximum of 72 hours, a detainee must be freed or put before a magistrate.

All detainees must be told immediately and clearly their rights and the reasons for their detention, and need not declare. A detainee has a right to a lawyer in all police and legal proceedings.

The law establishes "habeas corpus" so that any person illegally detained is immediately brought before judicial process. And the law determines the maximum length of a prison term. A short clause buried deep in the constitution's legal provisions says: "Justice emanates from the people ... Exceptional Courts are prohibited." To change any of this requires a three-fifths majority of both houses of parliament, and approval in a national referendum.

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