875 Spanish citizens are stuck in foreign prisions

by Lorraine Williamson
foreign prisons

MADRID – Spain has 875 citizens who are in foreign prisons. Of these, 46% are concentrated in prisons in France, Germany and Morocco. 

Furthermore, the Spanish government has evidence that 27 Spaniards in Egypt have been sentenced to life imprisonment. One other has been given the death penalty. The government released this data as part of a parliamentary response to the situation of Spanish prisoners abroad. It was also discussed for which crimes the Spaniards are imprisoned. More than half are in foreign prisons for drug crimes. 

Most Spanish prisoners are held in five countries 

The five countries where the most Spanish citizens are serving a prison sentence are;

  • France (176)
  • Germany (134)
  • Morocco (97)
  • Portugal (48)
  • Belgium (42)

This is followed by;

  • The United Kingdom (35)
  • Italy (33)
  • The United States (31)
  • Ecuador (18)
  • Peru (18)
  • Bolivia (14)

In total, Spaniards are imprisoned in nearly 70 countries, including Iran. Two Spaniards were arrested here in October as part of protests against the death of the young woman Mahsa Amini. 

Also read: Spanish football fan walking to Qatar arrested in Iran

104 prisoners have sentences of more than 10 years 

In response to EH Bildu, the executive also details the legal situation. Moreover, it turns out that of the total of 875 Spanish prisoners abroad, 482 have been convicted. Of all prisoners abroad, 104 have received a sentence of more than ten years. 333 prisoners are serving sentences of less than ten years, while 27 individuals have been sentenced to life imprisonment and one to the death penalty. 

Cogesa Expats

The Spanish national of Egyptian descent who is awaiting the death penalty in Egypt has been convicted in that country after shooting his brother-in-law in 2016. 

Reasons for arrest abroad 

The most common reason for the arrest is drug trafficking (486). This represents 55.5% of all reasons for arrest. This is followed by theft (56 cases), murder (33), manslaughter (32), abuse of minors (24), fraud (22), terrorism (15), rape (15), human trafficking (14), gender violence (13), illegal residence (9), theft (8), counterfeiting (6), kidnapping (5) and pimping (5). In other cases, 46 Spaniards have been classified and another 10 are in the process of extradition. 

Transfer to Spain 

Concerning the number of detained Spaniards who have requested to be transferred to Spain to serve their sentence, the government does not provide precise figures. The executive does, however, refer to Law 23/2014 on the mutual recognition of criminal decisions in the European Union. On that basis, the Ministry of Justice would not have complete data on the transfer of Spaniards from another Member State, as it is the central court that has jurisdiction in this matter. 

On the other hand, the government points out that the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons is in force with about 60 countries, including both European and non-European countries. Specific bilateral agreements have been negotiated with a further 34 countries. 

Transfer requirements from foreign prisons

The government emphasises that in addition to the existence of this international treaty, however, a series of conditions must be met. In the first place, the detainee’s consent is required, he or she must also have Spanish nationality, a final judgment must have been passed against him/her and the sentence pending enforcement must be longer than six months or one year -depending on the agreement-. 

Another requirement is that the acts leading to the conviction in the country of imprisonment are also a crime in Spain and that both countries agree to the transfer, “since the agreements do not establish a right to transfer”. 

Finally, if the prisoner meets all the requirements, the transfer will only take place with the approval of the two governments, which is not always the case. 


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