Madrid councilor acquitted over tweets about terrorism victims

Guillermo Zapata resigned as culture chief after his Holocaust and ETA jokes began circulating

Guillermo Zapata arriving at the Spanish High Court in Madrid.
Guillermo Zapata arriving at the Spanish High Court in Madrid.Álvaro García

A Spanish left-wing politician has been acquitted of charges of humiliating terrorism victims over messages he tweeted in 2011.

The Spanish High Court ruled that Guillermo Zapata, a Madrid councilor with the Ahora Madrid platform, did not commit any offenses when he shared offensive jokes on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

Zapata was forced to resign just 48 hours into the job

Judges decided that Zapata’s comments about the Holocaust and victims of Basque terrorist group ETA are probably reprehensible, but “on a different level from penal law.”

The Dignity and Justice Association had been pressing for a prison sentence of one year and eight months for his jokes about Irene Villa, an ETA victim who lost both legs in a car bomb as a child.

On November 7, Zapata defended his innocence in court, saying: “I didn’t mean for people to find the joke funny; it was part of a debate on the limits of dark humor.”

The old tweets began to circulate in June 2015, after Zapata was appointed head of the Madrid culture and sports department by the new mayor, Manuela Carmena. International media, including The New York Times, picked up the story.

Zapata was forced to resign just 48 hours into the job, although he retained his seat in the Madrid council. He was not a public official when he tweeted the jokes.

After the scandal broke, both the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) demanded Zapata’s resignation over comments described by the former as “unbecoming of someone who wishes to be culture chief in an open and tolerant city.” Jewish groups and terrorism victim associations expressed similar views.

Ahora Madrid, an instrumental party created by Podemos, Equo and other leftist groups to run in the 2015 local elections, came in second after the PP. However, its candidate Manuela Carmena secured the mayor’s office through a deal with the Socialists.

English version by Susana Urra.

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