Catalan demonstrators face punishment
Chief prosecutor claims nationalist demonstrators insulted the monarchy by burning pictures and flags.
16 September 2008
MADRID -- High Court Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza on Monday ordered police to find and identify a group of Catalan nationalists who burnt pictures of King Juan Carlos and Spanish flags at a demonstration in Barcelona last week.
In a note made public yesterday, Zaragoza states that the demonstrators insulted the monarchy and the Spanish state - serious crimes that can lead to large fines or even prison time. He urged the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, to act with the "utmost urgency" to find and identify the individuals responsible, and to provide him with a full report on what happened during the pro-independence demonstration last Thursday.
As speeches were read out at the end of the event in Fossar de les Moreres square, several people climbed onto scaffolding overlooking the crowd. Their faces covered, they set fire to photos of the Royal Family and then to a Spanish and a French flag. Other protestors on the ground followed their lead, igniting small handheld Spanish flags.
All could now face punishment for their actions if found guilty in court, joining 16 other Catalan nationalists who have been charged with insulting the monarchy or the state over the past year. The picture-burning trend was started by Jaume Roura and Enric Stern, two nationalists who burnt photos of the king during a demonstration in Gerona on 22 September 2007.
When a judge in Madrid ordered their arrest, other Catalan nationalists showed their support for the duo by burning more photos, leading to a cycle of demonstrations and prosecutions. Roura and Stern, the first to stand trial, were ordered in July to pay fines of EUR 2,700 each for insulting the monarchy.
In deciding the punishment, Judge José Luis de Castro said their actions were not protected by the right to freedom of expression because "to express your rejection of the monarchy it is not necessary to insult and vilify the king".
Last year, two Spanish cartoonists were ordered to pay a fine of EUR 3,000 for insulting the monarchy after a caricature of Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia in a sexual pose was published on the front cover of satirical magazine “El Jueves”.
[El Pais / A.E. / Expatica]