Carnival scandal

Puppeteers accused of glorifying terrorism turn in their passports

Rights groups say defendants’ freedom of expression guarantees are being violated

Video: The puppeteers arrive at the High Court with their friends. VIDEO: ATLAS / PHOTO: S. BURGOS (atlas)

Two puppeteers who are facing charges of glorifying terrorism appeared before the Spanish High Court on Thursday to turn in their passports as part of their prison release conditions.

Raúl García, 34, and Alfonso Lázaro, 29, refused to answer questions from reporters as they arrived at the court accompanied by a group of friends.

Organizations such as Amnesty International have called for the charges to be dropped

The pair were released from Soto del Real prison outside Madrid late Wednesday after High Court Judge Ismael Moreno ruled that the defendants were not a flight risk.

García and Lázaro, members of theater group Títeres desde abajo (or, Puppeteers from below), were arrested on Friday following a performance during a city-sponsored Carnival event in which they used their glove puppets to hold a placard that read “Gora-Alka-ETA,” or “Long live Al Qaeda-ETA,” referring to the Islamic and Basque terrorist groups.

The puppet show, La bruja y Don Cristóbal, also contained violent scenes, including a nun’s murder, the hanging of a judge, and the beatings of two police officers.

Organizations such as Amnesty International and the association Judges for Democracy have called for the charges against the puppeteers to be dropped.

“It is obvious that holding a placard that reads Gora-Alka-ETA could be seen as a way of glorifying [terrorism],” Judges for Democracy said in a statement. “But it is also more obvious that, when this does not actually occur in reality, but as a form of expression by puppeteers, the meaning and purpose of the performance should be considered.”

There was “no indication of any type of justification for terrorism” in their show

The group said the puppeteers were protected by freedom of expression guarantees and there was “no indication […] of any type of justification for terrorism” in their show.

The puppeteers were arrested after the parents of children who attended the performance, which was held on the grounds of the city’s Canal Isabel II waterworks company in the Tetuán district, reported the incident to police.

Because it was part of the City of Madrid’s official Carnival celebrations, both leftist Mayor Manuela Carmena and her cultural commissioner, Cecilia Mayer, who reportedly hired the group, have come under fire over the performance.

Carmena has since apologized and promised a full-scale investigation.

English version by Martin Delfín.