SPAIN: Actor detained after ridiculing ‘God and the Virgin Mary’

(The Guardian) Willy Toledo to face Madrid court after not showing up for questioning over Facebook post

A Spanish actor accused of ridiculing God and the Virgin Mary has been detained for questioning by a judge, police have said, in the latest high-profile case to raise freedom of speech fears in the country.

Willy Toledo, a cinema and television actor who is facing a complaint over a social media post last year criticising the blasphemy prosecution of three women, has twice failed to show up for questioning.

He will be questioned by a judge on Thursday, a police spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the police acted on the orders of a Madrid court.

Oscar-winner Javier Bardem has spoken out in support of Toledo, 48, warning that the country risked a return to the repressive era of dictator Francisco Franco.

The case stems from a July 2017 Facebook message, in which Toledo defended three women who paraded in the southern city of Sevilla with a giant vagina, simulating a religious procession, dubbing it the “Coño Insumiso” or “Insubordinate Pussy”.

In his post Toledo said: “I shit on God, and I have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the sanctity and virginity of the Virgin Mary. This country is unbearably shameful. I’m disgusted.”

He was denounced by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers for “covering God and the Virgin Mary with ridicule”.

Toledo did not answer a first summons for questioning on 18 April, arguing he had not “committed any offence and so there is no need to appear before a judge”.

The Madrid court ordered he be detained after he again ignored a summons to appear for questioning on 28 June.

The case is one many where artists have been probed or jailed for voicing their opinions in Spain.

Several Twitter users and rappers have also been judged for glorifying terrorism or insulting the king in comments or lyrics, prompting criticism of the “repression” of freedom of expression to Amnesty International.

Earlier this year rapper Valtònyc fled to Belgium to avoid a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for glorifying terror, insulting the king and issuing threats in his lyrics. A Belgian court is due to decide whether or not to extradite the 24-year-old on 17 September.


Read Amnesty International’s report: Tweet … if you dare: how counter-terrorism laws restrict freedom of expression in Spain

Featured image: Benjamin Cremel/AFP/Getty Images