Court drops charges in royal bear hunt caricature case

18th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish court dropped all charges against three cartoonists who drew a caricature of the king taking part in a hunt involving a drunk bear.

MADRID – A Spanish court on Wednesday dropped all charges against the three authors of a caricature depicting King Juan Carlos on a hunting trip in Russia where he allegedly shot dead a drunken circus bear.

Public prosecutors had asked that the three be fined EUR 10,800 each for "causing serious insult" to the king.

But Judge Jose Maria Vazquez Honrubia of the National Court ruled that there was "reasonable doubt" that the three had intended to insult the monarch although he added that the limits of freedom of expression "in this case were not crossed by very little".

In the caricature and an accompanying article published in Basque newspapers Gara and Deia in October 2006, the journalists picked up a report published in Russian newspaper Kommersant that claimed that the king had shot a bear that had been fed honey-laced vodka to slow its reactions.

"He was cooked!" read the headline above the photo-montage of a drooling king wearing a Russian hat, brandishing a rifle over a dead bear and a barrel of booze that was published in the two newspapers.

The Royal Palace had called the report that the king, an avid hunter, had taken part in a hunt involving a drunk bear "ridiculous".

The practice of organising staged hunting trips - known as canned hunting - was used by Communist leaders in Soviet times and has also been employed for wealthy hunters in Russia.

In July 2006 a Spanish court ordered the seizure of satirical weekly El Jueves after it published a caricature depicting Crown Prince Felipe having sex with his wife.

The cover was intended to poke fun at the government’s new payment of EUR 2,500 on the birth of every child in Spain in an effort to boost the birthrate.

The National Court in November found the two cartoonists behind the cover guilty of insulting the monarchy and fined them EUR 1,500 each.

[AFP / Expatica]

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