Carnival scandal

Puppeteers arrested for praising terrorism released from jail

Prosecutor convinces judge defendants are not a flight risk and won’t repeat performance

Los dos titiriteros salen de la cárcel.Video: Vídeo: Granada Televisión / Foto: Kike Para

Two puppeteers who were arrested last week on suspicion of glorifying terrorism during a city-sponsored Carnival performance were released from custody on Wednesday evening after the High Court decided that the defendants are not a flight risk.

The court sided with arguments by a public prosecutor that Raúl García, 34, and Alfonso Lázaro, 29, will not repeat their actions if they are released from jail. Since their arrests on Friday, the two men had been held in custody at Madrid’s Soto del Real prison.

The glove puppets acted out violent scenes, including a nun’s murder, the hanging of a judge, and police beatings

Their lawyers had appealed the decision to hold the men in custody, which was taken by High Court Judge Ismael Moreno.

The pair left the Soto del Real (Madrid) jail at around 6pm on Wednesday after five days and five nights behind bars, one of which was spent in police cells.

They were met with applause from a few dozen friends and family members who were waiting for them outside the jail. Neither of the men made any statements upon leaving the prison. According to the mother of García, both will speak publically in the next few days. “We have no fears over what could happen next,” she said.

García and Lázaro, members of the theater group Títeres desde abajo (or, Puppeteers from below), had put on a performance entitled La bruja y Don Cristóbal in which glove puppets acted out violent scenes, including a nun’s murder, the hanging of a judge, and police officer beatings.

But what landed them in jail was a placard held by the puppeteers that read Gora-Alka-ETA, or “Long live Al Qaeda-ETA,” referring to the Islamic and Basque terrorist groups.

Raúl García, one of the defendants, in a photo from his official webpage.
Raúl García, one of the defendants, in a photo from his official webpage.

Parents who were at the presentation along with their children had reported the incident to the Madrid Municipal Police. The puppet show was held on the grounds of the city’s waterworks company Canal Isabel II in the Tetuán district.

García and Lázaro both face charges in connection with supporting terrorism and fomenting hate and violence. Praising terrorism has been a crime in Spain since 1995.

“It is difficult that these actions, which are the subject of these proceedings, could be repeated for the simple reason that all material used in the presentation has been confiscated by judicial authorities,” said the High Court prosecutor, adding that the theater group has also canceled all upcoming performances.

The prosecutor asked that the defendants turn over their passports and report to court on a regular basis until their trial.

Madrid’s leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena and her cultural commissioner Celia Mayer have been the targets of the political fallout

Because the Carnival events were sponsored by the city, Madrid’s leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena and her cultural commissioner Celia Mayer have been the targets of the political fallout.

Initially, Mayor Carmena called the detentions “a serious action that is worrisome” and played down the incident. But on Monday at a press conference, she apologized to the public for the “incredibly deplorable puppet show” and pledged a full-scale investigation.

According to Madrid City Hall sources, officials are trying to determine who posted on the official Carnival events Facebook page just hours before the performance a message that read: “And, no, no, it’s not for children. It’s for adults only.”

There have been discrepancies among city officials whether the puppet show was actually intended for younger audiences.

Various political parties have called for the resignation of the Madrid cultural chief, but the mayor has not said whether or not she will seek to replace Mayer.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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