Begoña Rodríguez, a 46-year-old woman from El Ferrol with serious eyesight problems, swears that never in her life has she insulted anyone on the internet, much less the victims of the Basque terrorist group ETA.
“I cried when they killed Miguel Ángel Blanco [a young councilor kidnapped and murdered in 1997]. I felt like he was part of my family,” she says.
Yet the Civil Guard arrested her on April 28, along with 20 others, for reiterated online hate speech that poked fun at victims of terrorism and encouraged new acts of terror with messages such as: “Death to the Popular Party and long live assassinations.” The police say they are looking for 200 more people hiding behind anonymous profiles on Twitter and Facebook, whose followers number in excess of 40,000.
Rodríguez, who moved from A Coruña to the Basque capital of Vitoria after splitting up with her sentimental partner three years ago, says she came here looking for some peace and quiet.
The police are looking for 200 more people hiding behind anonymous profiles on Twitter and Facebook
That is, until two police officers arrested her while she was on her way to a supermarket in Miranda de Ebro. “They opened the doors of my car, one on each side, and told them I had to come down to the station with them. The first thing I thought was that something had happened to my daughter, who lives in Mallorca.”
It was the beginning of a 15-hour nightmare. “I cried. I thought they were lying to me, that something had happened to my only daughter. We haven’t been on speaking terms for a month because I’m angry at her, because she is 22 and dating an older man.”
Speaking on the brink of tears, Rodríguez recalls how they sent her straight to a prison cell. “Can you imagine? They were wearing dark hoods and you could only see their eyes and their mouths. They told me to stay calm, but how could I? It was madness, I’m no terrorist, my God!”
One of the officers mocked her when he saw her ID: “You’re from El Ferrol – talk about balls, you’re more Spanish than I am!”
It was a picture that had the ETA anchor but I didn’t realize it was there, it was so small”
“He was trying to offend me, but how could I be? I am as Spanish as I am Galician,” says Rodríguez, adding that her only run-ins with the law until now were two parking tickets.
The agents showed her the evidence against her. “One was a picture of the ikurriña [the Basque flag], which yes, I had uploaded. But it was because I upload things that I share; I don’t know much about computers. It was a picture that had the ETA anchor [meaning the axe-and-serpent logo] and I didn’t realize it was there, it was so small. I have retinal detachment besides myopia and astigmatism, so I can’t see well.”
Although the Civil Guard says that all the detainees have at least 1,000 followers on Facebook or 2,000 on Twitter, Rodríguez says she has between 50 and 60 at the most, “most of them relatives from Galicia.”
After a few hours under arrest, a strong migraine came over her, and she was taken to hospital before being returned to the station. After providing a statement in the presence of a state-appointed attorney, she was told to go home.
Rodríguez is still asking herself how the police could have mistaken her for an ETA sympathizer. “They showed me pictures of Basque things I had on Facebook, but they didn’t see that I also love to upload songs by [popular Spanish singers] Camarón [de la Isla] and Rocío Jurado. No, they didn’t see that.”