Spanish Puppeteers Alfónso Lázaro de la Torre and Raul García Pérez could be headed to prison after a decision by Judge Ismael Moreno Chamarro. The Court noted that the two men performed for children in a play that included “the hanging of a doll dressed as a judge, the stabbing of policeman, the rape of a nun and her later stabbing with a crucifix”. That is certainly a large measure beyond the Punch and Judy shows that we grew up with. However, the question remains whether such shows, as disgusting as they are, should be turned into criminalized speech or left to civil liability and public pressures.
Spain has an ambiguously written law that has long been criticized by civil libertarians. Glorifying terrorism can get people in jail for a 1-3 year prison sentence under Article 578 of the Spanish Criminal Code. They can also be jailed for 1-4 years for the crime of inciting hatred “during the exercise of fundamental rights and public freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution” under Article 510.
Notably, police also found “small sign” with the slogan “Gora Alka ETA” on one of the men. The judge adopted a curious interpretation. “Gore ETA” is a common meaning of “Long live ETA”, but the judge concluded it was meant to refer also to “Long live Al-Qaeda-ETA.” Putting aside the interpretive approach, finding a sign on one of the men is a problematic aggravator, let alone a basis, for a criminal case. This concern is magnified by the court noting that a “cover of a book called ‘Against Democracy’, by the Coordinated Anarchist Groups” had been found among their possessions.
The judge said that parents were legitimately “horrified” and some protested or called police. The city is apparently canning the carnival managers which seems appropriate given the inappropriate content of the show. However, there remains the criminalization of the speech. The play was clearly inappropriate if the accounts are accurate. However, the terrorism connections are based loosely on two items that are not only matters of interpretation but not shown at the play, unless there is some new evidence.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
The arrest of puppeteers again puts civil libertarians in a tough position. No one is supporting such a show for an audience with children. However, the taste for censorship and criminalization of speech is rising in the West. It is a trend that seriously threatens the core value of Western Civilization of free speech.
What do you think?
Source: Spain Report