Prosecutor wants ex-Madrid culture chief investigated over offensive tweets

Ahora Madrid councilor Guillermo Zapata was forced to step down over Holocaust jokes

Madrid -
Guillermo Zapata at the press conference held to announce his resignation.
Guillermo Zapata at the press conference held to announce his resignation.SERGIO PEREZ (REUTERS)

The public prosecutor at Spain’s High Court has called for Guillermo Zapata, a short-lived culture chief at Madrid’s City Council, to be officially investigated on charges of humiliating victims of terrorism. The prosecutor believes that messages he posted on micro-blogging site Twitter in 2011 about ETA terrorist victim Irene Villa were “humiliating and degrading.”

Zapata was made culture chief in Madrid on June 13, the day that the city’s new mayor, Manuela Carmena of Podemos-backed Ahora Madrid, was voted into power with the support of the Socialist Party. But just 48 hours later, he was forced to resign after the offensive messages, which also included jokes about the Holocaust, came to public attention and caused outrage on the social networks and among opposition politicians.

The prosecutor believes tweets he published about ETA victim Irene Villa were “humiliating and degrading”

The prosecutor believes that tweets he published in 2011 about ETA terrorist victim Irene Villa were “humiliating and degrading.”

Irene Villa is one of ETA’s best-known victims, as she lost both legs in a car bomb attack at the age of 12. Her mother was also seriously injured in the attack. Alcàsser is a town in Valencia that made headline news in 1992 when three local teenage girls were abducted, tortured, raped and killed by two men, one of whom was never caught.

In a writ made public on Wednesday prosecutor Blanca Rodríguez said Zapata’s comments – which included messages such as: “They’ve had to shut down Alcàsser cemetery so Irene Villa won’t go in to get replacement parts” – displayed “discredit, contempt and humiliation for the victims of terrorist crimes and their families.”

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The public prosecutor has also called on the Dignidad y Justicia association, which filed a complaint against Zapata over the comments, to post a €20,000 bond in order to proceed as joint prosecution in the case.

Zapata’s other tweets, which he later claimed were posted in the context of a debate about the limits of humor, said the following: “How would you fit five million Jews into a Fiat 600 [a tiny car popular in the 1960s and 70s]? Answer: in the ashtray.”

In another remark in the same vein, Zapata tweeted about the State of Israel, saying: “We don’t know why it needs so much space, if each person just takes up a pile of ash.”

During the press conference held earlier in June to announce his resignation as culture chief, but not as councilor, Zapata sought to distance himself from the comments. “I’m not antisemitic,” he told reporters. “I reject all kinds of violence. I have never felt any attachment to any kind of terrorism.”

Ahora Madrid, which ran for municipal elections on an anti-austerity, anti-corruption campaign, is also facing problems with its council spokeswoman, Rita Maestre, who is the target of a court case over offensive behavior at a religious act in 2011.

Ahora Madrid is also facing problems with its council spokeswoman, Rita Maestre

Madrid prosecutors want a one-year prison sentence for Maestre for participating in a 2011 protest at the Catholic chapel on the campus of Complutense University. According to their written accusation, she and other individuals burst into the chapel “guided by the desire to offend the religious sentiment of those present and of the entire Catholic community.” They began screaming and waving images of the Pope with a superimposed swastika, then Maestre and other women allegedly removed their clothes from the waist up, and yelled: “We’re going to burn down the Episcopal Conference!” and: “Get your rosaries out of our ovaries!”

The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, has since defended Maestre, saying that she is “in the situation in which she finds herself” for being “an example of the defense” of student rights.

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