Spanish court slaps student with jail term for tweeting terrorism jokes

21-year-old’s cracks about 1973 attack against a Francoist official represent “mockery”

Pablo Cantó

A 21-year-old Spanish student has been convicted to a one-year prison sentence for joking about victims of terrorism on the social networking site Twitter. Spain’s central High Court found Cassandra Vera guilty of victim humiliation on the basis of 13 tweets she posted between 2013 and 2016.

Cassandra Vera in the courthouse where she was tried for mocking terrorism victims.
Cassandra Vera in the courthouse where she was tried for mocking terrorism victims.EFE (Ballesteros)

The ruling states that the messages “constitute contempt, dishonor, discredit, mockery and an affront” against “individuals who have suffered the effects of terrorism, and their relatives.”

The messages all targeted Luis Carrero Blanco, a Francoist politician who was head of government for several months in 1973 until his death in a terrorist attack by the Basque separatist group ETA. A terrorist nicknamed “Argala” set off explosives concealed in a tunnel that blew up the official’s car as it passed, and the force of the explosion sent the vehicle flying into the air. Two other people besides Carrero Blanco – a police chief and the chauffeur – died in the attack.

They have crushed my plan of being a teacher. They have ruined my life

Cassandra Vera

When Vera was prosecuted, one of Carrero Blanco’s granddaughters had a letter published in EL PAÍS asking for the charges to be dropped. Lucía Carrero Blanco said the history student’s jokes were “in bad taste,” but that they did not offend her.

Some of the messages posted by Vera include:

“ETA encouraged a policy against official cars in combination with a space program.” Published on November 29, 2013.

“Movie: Three meters above the sky. Producer: ETA films. Director: Argala. Main character: Carrero Blanco. Genre: Space race” Published on December 20, 2013.

“Elections on the day of the anniversary of Carrero Blanco’s space trip. Interesting.” Published on September 4, 2015.

“Did Carrero Blanco also go back to the future in his car? #BacktotheFuture” Published on October 21, 2015.

Some of the tweets included images of the attack.

The High Court found that even though the attack against the Francoist official took place more than 40 years ago, “the scourge of terrorism persists,” and its victims “deserve respect and consideration.”

The aftermath of the assassination of Carrero Blanco in Marid in 1973.
The aftermath of the assassination of Carrero Blanco in Marid in 1973.

The court did not find the humorous tone of the messages an extenuating circumstance. On the contrary, “the phrases employed, most often complemented with eloquent images, reinforce their contemptuous, mocking nature.”

Besides the one-year prison sentence – which Vera is unlikely to serve, as anything under two years is typically not enforced unless a prior criminal record exists – the history student has been barred from holding public office for seven years, which also means that she cannot apply for public study grants.

“They have crushed my plans of being a teacher,” she said via her Twitter account. “They have ruined my life.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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