Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A SPANISH BLOGGER claims (link in Spanish) he's been charged with "supporting Israel", LGF posts. The blogger says he wrote an email message to the mayor of a town in northwestern Spain for displaying slogans against Israel in the municipal information board (see what I wrote a couple of years ago for background).

I've been in contact with the blogger over email since I first hear of this, and I didn't write anything yet because I don't have enough information to jump to any conclusions, and so far the guy didn't give it to me, or anyone that I know. First, the blogger hasn't provided any copy of the email he sent to the mayor; in a later post (link in Spanish) he says that it's because Hotmail doesn't store the sent emails; I can't verify, because I've never used Hotmail and obviously I'm not going to get one just to test this.

He only sent me a copy of the document in which he's summoned on November 30. It's a document that doesn't state the charge; it only says he has to go before a judge for questioning and reminds him he has the right to be assisted by an attorney. The blogger says he went to the court when he got the letter to see what were exactly the charges, and they showed him the indictment but wasn't allow to take a copy.

So we have to take him at his word when he says that the charges are "being in favor of Israel and against the Palestinian people." The problem? THERE IS NO SECTION IN SPAIN'S CRIMINAL CODE THAT SAYS THIS IS A CRIME. No doubt lots of people (Zapatero included) would want to make that a crime, but so far it hasn't happened. So there's something else to it; in the later post, the blogger says that he doesn't know the charges, but "por lo único que se me puede acusar además de por la opinión política es por responder con insultos, a sus insultos al pueblo norteamericano, a los judíos, al pueblo y al presidente electo de Israel en aquel momento. Que yo sepa insultar no es nada digno de elogio, pero no es un crimen, y menos cuando se responde a otros insultos más graves." (The only other thing that I can be accused for, besides the political opinion, is for replying with insults to [the mayor]'s insults to the American people, the Jews, and the people and the elected president [sic] of Israel at that time. As far as I know, insulting is not something to be proud of but it's not a crime, and less so when it's done as a response to graver insults.")

In an email, the blogger said to me "debido a mi cabreo por las ofensas de este alcalde a Israel, EEUU, y a los disidentes cubanos, de los que soy parte, le envié un email en un tono algo ofensivo, pero nada amenazante, y sí a favor de Israel, pero no en contra de los palestinos." (due to me being so pissed by the mayor's insults to Israel, the USA and Cuban dissidents -I am one- I sent him an email in a somewhat offensive tone, but not a threatening one, and in favor of Israel but not against the Palestinians."

Well, that may be the case, but without being able to see the actual text, and judge from it, it's impossible to know. Considering that being in favor of Israel is not a crime in Spain, I smell that there's something more that meets the eye. It's simply impossible to know at this point. Were the insults such that they could be construed as a veiled threat against an elected government official, which is a crime in Spain? The mayor of Oleiros deserves all the scorn and criticism for the shameful use of public resources in a despicably partisan manner, and one could argue that insulting him shouldn't be a crime (I'm a bit of a free speech absolutist.) But that doesn't change the fact that the current criminal legislation, as things stand, makes it a crime.

The blogger is understandably downplaying this, and maybe it's right and the affair went to a judge as anti-Semitic as the mayor himself. Or maybe not, and the insults (and veiled threats?) were real. It's impossible to know with the information we have now. So we should reserve judgement on this issue until all information is available, I think.

UPDATE. Toasted Bread writes:
According to Article 24 of Spanish Constitution, one of your main rights is to be told “about the crime you’re accused of”. In here he was not told he was accused of insulting / menacing the major but of supporting Israel and also of acting against Palestinian people. If later they charged him because of another crime, then that summons wouldn’t be rightly done.
But we don't know what the accusation is because the blogger hasn't shown any document yet, at least not to me. He says he went to the court to ask and wasn't allowed to take a copy. What he sent is a document saying he's ordered to appear for questioning on November 30. In that document there's no mention of the article of the penal code he's accused of breaking (it's in my hard drive, I'm looking at it at this moment). That's in what the Spanish criminal system calls "the instruction", and of course he or his lawyer are allowed to see it. If he hasn't, then it's good news for him since the case wouldn't have a chance of standing on appeal. That's why it's odd he isn't able to explicitely say it, since it's fairly straightforward: it's only a matter of saying which specific section of the Criminal Code he's questioned for.

Of course it's important to blog about things before anything serious happens, as Toasted Bread says, but at the same time it's important that bloggers base their reasoning in facts and supporting evidence and not only in what one interested party says. That's for the MSM to do. We want to -or at least should- retain our credibility.

UPDATE II. And to make myself clear, just in case: we not only need to know what's the charge, but we need to know what he was charged for. That is, no matter what provision in the criminal code he's accused of breaking, we need to know the text of the email to be able to judge whether the summons are correct or not. I said I'm a free speech absolutist and think legal codes should allow anyone to say anything to anyone with the only fear of hearing back from that person, but the current system is what it is, I'm sorry.

UPDATE III. Reader Paul Stinchfield (with a Hotmail address!) emails over Hotmail not storing emails sent: "This is partly true. By default, Hotmail does not save sent messages. However, there is a "Copy Message to Sent Folder" checkbox at the bottom of the screen, so you can save copies of your emails. Unfortunately, you have to remember to check it every time you send an email. There is no way to configure Hotmail to automatically do so by default. (I have no record of some emails I've sent because I forgot to check the box.)" He sends a screen cap. I assumed this was the case since it would be absurd to argue otherwise about something so easy to check, but it's better to be 100% sure. Thanks. This particular aspect of the controversy is settled, then.

UPDATE IV. John @ Iberian Notes has quite a lot more on this. He agrees that something doesn't add up, at least with the information we have now.

Click here to send me an email

Subscribe with Bloglines