Prison sentence given 21-year-old for satirical Tweets

Cassandra Vera, the Murcian student sentenced to jail for Tweets on Franco-era assasination. Photo: Twitter via Público
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• Series of satirical Tweets from 2013-15 land Murcian student jail sentence
• Tweets joked about ETA assassination of Franco minister four decades earlier

Spain’s Audiencia Nacional high court has sentenced a 21-year old student and Twitter user from Murcia to one year in prison for having published a series of 13 Tweets from 2013-15 that joked about the 1973 assassination by a Basque ETA terrorist unit of Spanish Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, a close confidant of dictator Francisco Franco and prime minister of Spain at the time of his murder.

The court verdict handed down last week for glorifying terrorism and humiliating terrorist victims has stunned human rights organizations and legal scholars in Spain, given that the assassination of Carrero Blanco, who was seen to have been most likely to have succeeded Franco after his death two years later, occurred more than 40 years prior to the allegedly pro-terrorist Tweets by Cassandra Vera’s, who was still a teenager at the time of her Twitter activity.

Spanish human rights group Defender a quien defiende (To Defend Those Who Defend) has condemned the verdict and Amnistía Internacional España, the Spanish section of the global human-rights campaigning organization, Amnesty International, says it is studying the verdict and is concerned that the use of terrorism as a justification for bringing criminal charges is becoming a pretext for camping down on freedom of expression in Spain. Anti-austerity party Podemos issued a statement criticizing  the verdict, saying “to jest is not a crime and Spain is not a dictatorship.”

Law professor Jacobo Dopico of the Carlos III university in Madrid reacted to the verdict in comments to the newspaper Público, saying “It is inconceivable that a court in a Western European country has interpreted simple political satire on the death of Luis Carrero Blanco, the head of government of the Franco dictatorship killed 44 years ago, to be not only a crime but a terrorist offense.”

Vera’s lawyers say that she may not serve time in prison if the judge in the case chooses to suspend the sentence and impose 3-5 years’ probation. Despite the high costs of appealing the verdict, they say they are considering appealing the court’s verdict and sentence to Spain’s Supreme Court and ultimately could take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

► Read More in Spanish at Público, El País and 20minutos …

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