Greek MPs approved in principle on Wednesday night a Justice Ministry bill revising the penal code with stricter penalties for migrant trafficking, rape and child abuse.
The legislation was backed by ruling New Democracy, Movement for Change (KINAL) and far-right Greek Solution, while main opposition SYRIZA, the Communist Party and MeRA25 voted it down.
"Those who claim to uphold morality must at some point also assume their own responsibility,” Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras told lawmakers during the debate.
The bill had originally been slated to include a provision reinstating penalties for public blasphemy but that proposed reform was withdrawn by the minister following vehement criticism by the political opposition and a public outcry.
The new law essentially amends the penal code that the previous leftist government had approved in the summer a few weeks before being voted out of power.
Among other things, the bill foresees the tripling of prison terms for those found guilty of trafficking undocumented migrants.
Convicted rapists will face at least 10 years in prison compared to the current five to 10 years. Those found guilty of child abuse will also face stiff terms.
The new bill also foresees harsher penalties for terrorism and acts such as the use of homemade firebombs during protests which the conservative government accuses the leftist administration of having tolerated.
Under the new law, Tsiaras said, throwing a Molotov cocktail during a public protest will be a crime rather than a misdemeanor.
In comments in the House ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Tsiaras said the conservative government’s revised bill sought to redress a “rushed” law passed by the previous administration in the summer which, he said, “had created many gray areas and many concerns.”
The new law, Tsiaras claimed, would “to a great extent satisfy the common sense of what is right.”