freedom of expression is under serious attack in Spain
Spanish student has conviction for Twitter joke overturned
Cassandra Vera had been handed suspended sentence for joking about 1973 assassination of PM
Sam Jones in Madrid Thu 1 Mar 2018
Vera, now 22, had posted jokes in 2013 about Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was murdered by Eta.
Spain’s supreme court has overturned a sentence handed to a student who used her Twitter account to make jokes about the 1973 assassination of a Spanish prime minister.
Last March, the country’s top criminal court gave Cassandra Vera a 12-month suspended sentence and barred her from doing a publicly funded job for seven years after she was found guilty of “humiliating victims of terrorism”.
Vera, now 22, had posted jokes about Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was murdered by an Eta bomb so powerful it blew his car more than 20 metres into the air and over the roof of the church where he had just attended mass.
“Eta launched a policy against official cars combined with a space programme,” Vera wrote on 29 November 2013.
Five months later, she tweeted: “Kissinger gave Carrero Blanco a piece of the moon; Eta paid for the trip there.”
On Thursday, the supreme court quashed the conviction, saying it was clear that Vera had been joking, albeit in very poor taste, and had been using variations of familiar jokes about Carrero Blanco’s murder.
“While the accused’s conduct is reprehensible and blameworthy from a moral and social point of view – it makes fun of a very serious human tragedy caused by unjustifiable terrorist acts – it does not seem to be a case that requires an answer from the penal system,” the judges said in their ruling.
Vera said she was “very happy and incredibly relieved” by the supreme court’s decision.
“I’ve had all this hanging over me and have been going through the courts for two years,” she told the Guardian. “It means I can carry on with my plans to become a teacher. My dream isn’t broken any more and I can continue fighting for it.”
The case provoked an outcry at the time and increased concerns that the law was being used to stifle freedom of speech in Spain.
The row erupted again last week after a work depicting jailed Catalan independence leaders as political prisoners was removed from a Madrid art fair and the rapper Valtonyc had his three and a half year prison sentence upheld after being convicted of distributing songs online that threatened a politician with violence, glorified terrorism and insulted the crown.
Meanwhile, a judge ordered the seizure of copies of Fariña, a book about drug trafficking in Galicia, after a former mayor in the region brought legal action against its author.
Vera described the cases as deeply worrying and said she hoped the supreme court would also reconsider Valtonyc’s sentence.
“People shouldn’t have to be afraid of expressing their opinions,” she said. “What happened with Valtonyc and Fariña and the art exhibition showed that freedom of expression is under serious attack. I think freedom of expression has been dealt an almost fatal blow in Spain.”