The Civil Guard has arrested 10 people and is investigating two others, both minors, on charges of justifying acts of terrorism on social networking sites.
The number of arrests could reach as many as 20 once the operation, which is taking place in four Spanish regions, is complete, Civil Guard sources said.
Those arrested are accused of insulting victims of terrorism on micro-blogging site Twitter and other social networks. The swoop marks the second phase of the Civil Guard’s Operation Araña (Spider), which is targeting people who post messages aimed at offending terrorism victims on the internet.
In the last few months, the Civil Guard has detected “a notable number of accounts” on the social networks publishing “in a continuous manner copious content defending ETA” and other terrorism organizations such as Al Qaeda and armed leftist group Grapo, an Interior Ministry press statement said. It also uncovered content “directly humiliating victims,” by making reference to the physical injuries they have suffered.
The arrests were made in the Basque Country, Navarre, Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and León
So far arrests have taken place in the Basque Country provinces of Álava and Bizkaia, as well as Navarre, Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo and León. Those detained are aged between 19 and 62.
The Civil Guard plans to take statements from the detainees before releasing them pending a National High Court appearance. It has also seized the mobile devices from which the messages were allegedly sent.
Among the internet comments uncovered by the Civil Guard are insults against Basque Country councilor Miguel Ángel Blanco, who was assassinated by ETA in 1997, and calls to place “car bombs” to blow up politicians such as Mariano Rajoy, ex-Socialist Party leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, and former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, said investigation sources.
In April security forces arrested 21 people on charges of glorifying terrorism. They were released on bail after making a statement to the courts and the majority are still awaiting trial, though a few have accepted sentences of up to a year in prison.
The murder of León Provincial Council head Isabel Carrasco in May also led to the arrest of several people after messages calling for more politicians to be killed appeared on the social networks.