FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Madrid councilor may face criminal trial over tweet mocking ETA victim

High Court judge reverses ruling to drop case against Guillermo Zapata

Guillermo Zapata (on crutches) with other Ahora Madrid coalition members outside City Hall on Thursday.
Guillermo Zapata (on crutches) with other Ahora Madrid coalition members outside City Hall on Thursday.Kike Para

A High Court judge has recommended putting a Madrid city councilor on trial over an offensive joke he posted on Twitter in 2011 before he was elected to office last year.

Judge Santiago Pedraz issued his ruling after a High Court panel ordered him to continue legal proceedings against Guillermo Zapata for allegedly humiliating victims of terrorism.

A High Court panel ordered Judge Pedraz to reopen the case

Zapata, who is a member of the leftist Ahora Madrid coalition headed by Mayor Manuela Carmena, has publicly apologized for his actions.

Pedraz’s recommendation now goes to the High Court prosecutor who has 10 days to decide whether to take the case to trial or drop it.

Zapata, who represents the El Pardo-Fuencarral district, had tweeted a string of jokes that made fun of the Holocaust and of victims of ETA terrorism.

Among them was a joke about Irene Villa, an ETA victim who lost both legs in a 1991 car-bomb attack when she was a child.

Zapata wrote: “The girl’s cemetery in Alcasser had to be closed to keep Irene Villa away.”

At first he argued that the messages were posted in the context of a debate about the limits of humor and later told the High Court that he was protected under freedom of expression guarantees.

One of Zapata’s tweets 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.”

More information

In another remark, 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.”

Under public pressure, Zapata was forced to give up his role as Madrid culture and sports commissioner, but did not resign his City Hall seat.

Mayor Carmena later named Cecilia Mayer to replace him as cultural chief, but she has also attracted controversy over the removal of Francoist symbols around the city and a puppet show held as part of the capital’s Carnival celebrations that saw two puppeteers arrested over allegations of glorifying terrorism during the performance.

In December, the High Court’s criminal section decided to review the case against Zapata after Judge Pedraz dropped the charges on October 7.

In its ruling, the panel ordered Pedraz to reopen the case against Zapata for the Irene Villa tweet.

Terrorist victims’ association Dignity and Justice filed an appeal after Judge Pedraz shelved the case against Zapata.

English version by Martin Delfín.

Rules

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS