FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Prosecutor tried to probe actor Willy Toledo’s comments about Easter week

The activist’s lawyer has expressed his outrage over the move, calling it “more in line with the parameters used at the time by the Spanish Inquisition”

Willy Toledo leaves a Madrid court in this file photo.
Willy Toledo leaves a Madrid court in this file photo.KIKE PARA

The public prosecutor unsuccessfully sought to widen the scope of a court case against the Spanish actor and activist Willy Toledo, who has been facing legal problems after allegedly offending religious sentiments due to Facebook posts he wrote that are deemed to have insulted God and the Virgin Mary. According to a document dated October 9, the prosecutor’s office wanted to analyze two other Facebook posts in which Toldeo criticized Easter week and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

The request was rejected by the judge, but, as Toledo’s lawyer argues, it reveals the attitude of the prosecutor. “It is the polar opposite of defending freedom of expression, and an attempt to formulate a prosecution that is more in line with the parameters used at the time by the Spanish Inquisition than those of a public prosecutor in a lay state in the 21st century,” he said.

The case against Toledo – who has appeared in movies such as Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited and the romantic comedy The Other Side of the Bed – was taken on by a judge in late September. Article 525 of Spain’s Criminal Code deals with offenses against religious sentiments, which carry economic penalties.

The case dates back to July 5, 2017, when Toledo published comments on Facebook criticizing the fact that three women were facing their own court case after they paraded a giant model of female genitalia – dubbed “the Insubordinate Pussy” – through the streets of Seville, imitating religious processions that are common throughout Spain.

In his comments, Toledo said: “I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary. This country is unbearably shameful. I’m disgusted. Go fuck yourselves. Long live the Insubordinate Pussy.”

In response, a complaint was filed against him by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers for offending their religious sentiments.

After the court accepted the case, the lawyers’ association called for a fine of 22 months for Toledo, while the public prosecutor requested time to carry out more investigations and asked the police to investigate a number of messages posted by Toledo, dated April 14 and July 6, 2017.

The first, according to the document, to which EL PAÍS has had access, relates to Easter: “On the Easter week processions. Those who defend this circus of horrors with arguments such as ‘if you don’t like it, don’t go,’ should remember that this heinous show is put on in the streets, not in your street. It is done with public money, not your money. If you want obfuscation, superstition, misogyny and suffering, you can flagellate yourselves in a damn church or pay for it yourselves with your own damn money. If I offend your religious sentiments, you offend my atheist sentiments. If you get off on going for a walk with a man being tortured on a cross on your shoulders and break your bones in the process, you should go to the fucking racetrack in Jerez and wear yourself out doing laps, you’ll see how much fun you’ll have.”

The second Facebook post, written on July 6, 2017, adds: “Between 1854 and 1962, the Holy Roman Catholic apostolic pedophile Church invented the penultimate science fiction story. They lack a lot of things these cavemen, but not imagination.”

“The prosecutor doesn’t just consider it to be a crime to write [popular Spanish curse] ‘I shit on God’ and ‘I shit on our Lady of the Pillar,’ (or at least for Willy Toledo to do so), but also considers it to be equally criminal to satirically criticize the Easter week processions and to describe the so-called ‘dogma of the Immaculate Conception’ as a ‘science fiction story’,” the actor’s lawyer, Endika Zulueta, said. He added that although the judge had rejected the prosecutor’s request, he did agree to a police report based on the two Facebook messages that prompted the court case.

Toledo was arrested on September 13 on orders from the judge in charge of the case, after he failed to appear in a Madrid court on two prior occasions to answer questions in a preliminary probe. After spending a night in the cells, and then appearing before the judge the next morning, he was released. Outside the courthouse he told reporters that he didn’t believe that he had “committed any kind of crime,” and that, by forcing the police to arrest him, he was staging “an act of civil disobedience.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

Prior controversy

EL PAÍS

Willy Toledo has been involved in a number of controversies over the years. In 2013, he announced that he was leaving Spain to move to Cuba, expressing words of praise for the country’s government, as well as for former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, during a television interview. “It moves me, coming from Europe, where we are victims of rampant capitalism, arriving in Latin America where there are these humanist processes that have improved the lives of the people,” he said at the time.

That same year, Cuban athlete Orlando Ortega defected to Spain and opted for Spanish nationality. After he won a medal at the Río de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, Toledo took to social networks, calling Ortega a “worm,” adding that: “Rome does not pay traitors, something that every Cuban should be aware of.” The incident cost Toledo a month without access to his Facebook account, after the social network opted to temporarily shut it down.

In 2010, Toledo entered Congress, Spain’s lower house, along with five other activists during a parliamentary session. The group shouted slogans in favor of the freedom of Western Sahara, the disputed territory in North Africa. A court case over the incident was shelved a year later.

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