• Spanish Femen group staged protest to counter Catholic anti-abortion march
• Judge says protest was legitimate, peaceable exercise of freedom of expression
A Madrid court has acquitted five Spanish activists from international women’s rights group Femen who had been charged with public disorder, exhibitionism and resisting arrest stemming from their topless disruption of a 2013 march by several thousand anti-abortion protesters, organized by the ultra-right Catholic group Hazte Oir in Madrid.
State prosecutors had asked for nine months’ imrisonment and a fine of 1,800 euros for each of the five women. But on Tuesday, Spanish Judge María Dolores Moure acquitted the five activists, saying that they were within their rights of freedom of expression and peaceable assembly in having attempted to block the anti-abortion march and that they neither made obscene gestures to the marchers nor resisted arrest, as the prosecution had charged.
The case marks the second high-profile acquittal of anti-abortion activists in the past six months. In December, a Madrid court dismissed charges against Rita Maestre, today a leading figure in anti-austerity party Podemos and spokesperson for the municipal government of Madrid, over her participation in a topless protest in 2011 inside a chapel on the campus of the Complutense university in Madrid. The judge in that case and Maestre both later reported receiving anonymous death threats as a result of the acquittal.