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Spanish actor detained to face judge over blasphemy complaint

A Spanish actor accused of ridiculing “god and the Virgin Mary” was detained Wednesday to be questioned by a judge, police said, in the latest high profile case to raise free speech fears in the country.

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

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

Spain’s 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 charged with blasphemy after they paraded in the southern city of Sevilla with a giant vagina, simulating a religious procession, dubbing it the “Cono 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 April 18, 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 June 28.

The affair is one of a string of cases of artists being probed or jailed for voicing their opinions in Spain which has raised concerns about freedom of expression.

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

Earlier this year rapper Valtonyc 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 September 17.