Spain arrests Briton for insulting police in Gibraltar row

5th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

Spanish police Thursday arrested a British man accused of branding their officers "torturers" for their treatment of motorists queueing to enter Gibraltar and of urging protests outside their homes.

The man was arrested in Madrid and is accused of slandering and insulting police on a website where he condemned them for their stringent traffic checks at the border -- source of a recent diplomatic row, the interior ministry said.

"In this publication he called them 'torturers and murderers' and incited people to carry out protests against officers at their homes," it said in a statement.

Police only gave the man's initials -- E.E. -- but Spanish media named him as Emilio Esteban.

"Here are The Faces of Spanish Border... 'TORTURERS'," read a message on the website allegedly run by Esteban, above pictures of uniformed Spanish police carrying out checks of vehicles at the Gibraltar border.

"They look like ordinary men and women but these 'criminals' are the people who, according to Gibraltarians, have 'tortured' innocent tourists and travellers," it said.

"You don't have to be a victim of police abuse. Escrache the Guardia Civil!," it added, using a Spanish slang word for a form of protest that involves protesters posting fliers and shouting slogans on the doorsteps of politicians.

The police said he was a Briton living in Spain. It did not specify whether he was originally from Gibraltar, where many British nationals have Spanish names.

The website was set up after Spanish police in July introduced stringent border checks at the border with Gibraltar, creating waits of several hours in the blazing heat for motorists trying to enter the tiny territory.

Spain argues the checks are needed to stop smuggling but Gibraltar says they are retaliation against its decision to create an artificial reef in the contested waters around the British overseas territory.

Spanish police have complained of being pelted with stones and insulted by drivers stuck in queues waiting to leave Gibraltar, a British-governed enclave at Spain's southern tip which is home to around 30,000 people.

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz blasted the website as "an intolerable attack on security forces and the rule of law".

"This attack violates their privacy and compromises the safety of agents. We are going to fight to defend our security forces to the very end," he added.

Esteban has denied encouraging violence against Spanish police.

"We called on people to photograph and protest peacefully against the Guardia Civil, not throw stones and insult," he wrote in a Twitter message on August 31.

© 2013 AFP

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