Heavy metal singer jailed for year for Twitter terrorism jokes

Woman faces possible prison for tweets as Spain’s freedom of expression questioned

Freedom of expression in Spain has come under scrutiny after a heavy metal singer was handed a prison sentence for posting jokes on Twitter about terrorism, while a woman is awaiting trial for writing similar comments.

The lead singer of heavy metal band Def con Dos, known as César Strawberry, was sentenced to a year in prison for posting on the social network jokes about the terrorist groups Eta and Grapo and talking about bombing the monarch.

“It’s nearly the king’s birthday. How exciting! I’m going to give him a cake-bomb,” reads one of the tweets.

The High Court absolved Strawberry (52) in July 2016, but the Supreme Court then took up the case following an appeal. It has found him guilty of humiliating terrorist victims and glorifying terrorism. According to the judge, Strawberry’s tweets “feed hateful rhetoric, legitimise terrorism as a formula to solve social conflicts and . . . force the victim to remember the hurtful experience of the threat, the kidnapping or the murder of a close relative.”


The sentence immediately drew criticism, with Alberto Garzón, leader of the United Left (IU) party, writing that it was "fit for a dictatorship". Amnesty International, which cited Strawberry's case in a recent report on the erosion of rights under anti-terror laws, also voiced concern.

This is the latest in a string of such cases in Spain. In another, a woman (21), who posted jokes on Twitter about the assassination of a senior figure in the Franco dictatorship, could also face a prison sentence. Cassandra Vera joked about Luis Carrero Blanco, the prime minister and heir apparent of dictator Francisco Franco, who died in 1973 when Eta members detonated a bomb under the car in which he was travelling; the vehicle was blown 35 metres into the air.

“Kissinger gave Carrero Blanco a piece of the moon, Eta paid for the journey there,” read one of the posts. Another said: “Did Carrero Blanco also go back to the future with his car?” They were written between 2013 and 2016.

Ms Vera was initially investigated in September and believed the case had been shelved. However, on January 10th she revealed that the state attorney was calling for her to be given 30 months in prison and three years’ probation.

She has received much support. An unexpected critic of the legal action has been the granddaughter of Carrero Blanco himself, who attacked the attorney's efforts to jail Ms Vera in a letter to El País newspaper, excerpts of which were published on Thursday.

“I’m scared of a society in which freedom of expression, however regrettable it may be, can lead to jail sentences,” wrote Lucía Carrero Blanco, who described the jokes as repugnant and in poor taste, but not worthy of such legal action.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain