Terrorism jokes no laughing matter for Spain’s judges  

Terrorism jokes no laughing matter for Spain’s judges   

MADRID: When she posted jokes on Twitter about a 1973 assassination committed by Spain’s Basque separatist group ETA, Cassandra Vera never for one moment thought they would land her a one-year jail sentence.

But last month, one of Spain’s top criminal courts found the 21-year-old guilty of “justifying terrorism” and humiliating its victims — the latest in a series of such convictions for social media pranks that has the country divided, and partisans of free speech worried.

“They ruined my life,” Vera tweeted about the 13 posts about the 1973 murder of Luis Carrero Blanco, the prime minister and heir-apparent of dictator Francisco Franco who was killed in an ETA bomb attack that sent his car hurtling into the air. “ETA combined a policy against the use of official vehicles with a space programme,” read one of her posts.

Another said: “Did Carrero Blanco also go back to the future with his car?” Vera is unlikely to spend time behind bars, as offenders of non-violent crimes with a sentence of under two years do not serve time in jail.

But she now has a criminal record that will prevent her from getting a scholarship for her studies. The National Court that sentenced her, which specialises in terrorism cases, ruled that her jokes did not form part of a “healthy humoristic environment” and that her attitude was “disrespectful” and “humiliating.” But Carrero Blanco’s own granddaughter, Lucia, said in a letter sent to the El Pais daily that she was “scared of a society in which freedom of expression, however regrettable it may be, can lead to jail sentences.” Luis Conde, a historian of comic books, told AFP he remembered more lenient times, even under Franco’s dictatorship when people would sing a song that featured the lyrics “Carrero flew,” in reference to the attack.

“And now, we can’t say it anymore?” he asked. But Consuelo Ordonez, head of the Covite association for victims of terrorism, said laughing at the expense of Carrero Blanco — a man associated with Franco’s iron-fist rule that ended after he died in 1975 — was a big mistake.