Spanish Student Jailed Over Jokes Sparks Freedom Of Speech Concerns

A college student has been sentenced to a year in jail and banned from public jobs for seven years, because she made jokes about an assassinated prime minister on Twitter.

A 21-year-old student from the Murcia, Spain has been sentenced to a year in prison for joking about the Spanish prime minister, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco’s assassination in a series of tweets. On 20 December 1973, he became the victim of a car bomb, which blew his vehicle more than 20 meters into the air just minutes after he attended mass at a nearby church.

 “Eta launched a policy against official cars combined with a space program,” the young girl identified as Cassandra Vera posted on 29 November 2013.

 “Kissinger gave Carrero Blanco a piece of the moon; Eta paid for the trip there,” she tweeted a few months later.

Now, Spain’s top criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, has found her guilty of glorifying terrorism and humiliating victims. As a result, she has not only been sentenced to a year in jail, but her punishment includes not being to do publicly funded jobs for seven years.

The incident has put question marks in people’s minds regarding Spain’s freedom of speech. Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the anti-austerity Podemos party, is standing up for Vera claiming “Joking is not a crime and Spain is not a dictatorship.”

 “It was a joke – nothing more than that,” Vera told the Guardian saying she didn’t not intend to glorify terrorism, or hurt anyone’s feelings. “I don’t regret doing it. It was just humour – and this kind of humour is very accepted in Spain so I don’t think I have anything to be sorry for,” the student added.

Vera further added that she was scared when she ended up at the Spain High court, Audiencia Nacional, since that’s where drug traffickers and terrorists are taken. She however, had done nothing but crack a few jokes on social media.

Interestingly, a People's Party councilor in Valencia made offensive comments about Vera, who is a transgender. “Where did this thing with a moustache come from?”

Vera said she was surprised officials held her tweets against her and questioned her ability to be a teacher based on posts she made stating she hated children.  “It was ridiculous and people have told them so. That’s the level of the people who criticise me. That’s all they have.”

Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, k_donovan11

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