Trade union leader arrested for insulting royals on social media

Expression

In early June 2018, the Secretary General of the Andalusian Workers Union (SAT), Óscar Reina was arrested of hate crimes and insulting the Crown on social media. Reina appeared in videos on social media "breaking and burning photographs of European leaders", and with comments alluding to, among other issues, performances by the State Security Forces last October in Catalonia. Reina, who also faces charges stemming from his involvement in the "symbolic" theft of food to distribute to poor people in 2012, has refused to appear before a magistrate on the charges against him and says he expects to be rearrested at any moment.

In a separate ongoing investigation, a Spanish court is examining an alleged crime against religious feelings, an offense which can result in a prison sentence of between eight and twelve months. The case relates to a poster showing the Virgin of the Desamparados and the Virgin of Montserrat kissing each other. The poster was produced as a reaction to a speech made by the Archbishop of Valencia who defended the family against the "gay empire" during a Mass at the Catholic University. The case had earlier been brought before a separate court during which a mother and her son were implicated in creating the poster. That court however dismissed that case because, in its opinion, the image did not constitute a crime and had "undoubted satirical, critical and provocative sense in response to the statements about homosexuals made by the Archbishop of Valencia" (translated from Spanish). 

Positive developments

In late July, the Spanish National High Criminal Court acquitted six young people from “Straight Edge Madrid”, an anarchist vegan group, of an offence of encouragement of terrorism. The group had published messages on social media criticising Spanish state institutions. The Public Prosecutor's Office called for a two-year prison sentence. According to the court, the messages "were just a way to show their rebelliousness, not a direct or indirect attack against state institutions"; and "there is no record that shows that they did encourage any terrorist act".

Separately, the Provincial Court of Las Palmas has dismissed the complaint lodged by the Association of Christian Lawyers against Drag Sethlas, winner of the Drag Queen Gala of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 2017. The complaint was to the effect that Sethlas' show was insulting to the Catholic religion. The Provincial Court found that the use of religious elements in the performance of a show, which was "transgressive", "exaggerated" and "daring", must be considered in context.

Finally, the Supreme Court has acquitted Octavio Cadello, who had been convicted by the National Court of the crime of glorifying terrorism and humiliating victims of terrorism. Cadello had posted "distasteful" comments on Facebook and a video on YouTube, which criticised the idea of naming a street after Miguel Ángel Blanco, a politician kidnapped and murdered by ETA in 1997.

Peaceful Assembly

The new Spanish government came into office two months ago with promises to repeal some of the most controversial laws of the Rajoy government, including the "Gag Law" which, as reported previously on the CIVICUS Monitor, restricts the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. As Lydia Vicente Márquez, executive director of Rights International Spain described the current situation and the expectations of the civil sector to CIVICUS Monitor:

“one of the main challenges and tasks of the new socialist government will be to unblock and move forward a number of key reforms that have been stalled in the past two years. One of these reforms will have to be the gag law. For the time being, the new government has been making promising statements, but we have not seen any concrete proposals or measures. It is about time to get moving.”

In a separate development, in early August 2018 a court in Lugo annulled sanctions imposed on local protesters who paralysed a project in 2014 that would have involved the cutting down of 150 trees and the destruction of several bridges. The local government opened 35 disciplinary proceedings against some of the activists who had participated in the protests with fines amounting to a total of 20,550 Euros. In its ruling, the court emphasised the spontaneous nature of the mobilisation in reaction to the threat posed by the development to the trees and bridges.