Wednesday, March 22

Justice rejects that asking to cut the king’s neck is freedom of expression and condemns a tweeter

Tweeting with the request to cut King Felipe VI’s neck and calling the head of state a “son of a bitch” is a crime. This has been sentenced by the National Court, which has sentenced Albert Baiges, a Twitter user from Tarragona, to a fine of 720 euros for a crime of libel against the crown.

Baiges has been sentenced for a single tweet. “Seriously. Let’s cut that son of a bitch’s neck, we are taking #coronaciao”, he wrote on the social network in reference to King Felipe VI on March 18, 2020, in full confinement due to the state of alarm and when the majority of the population could only leave the house to buy medicine or food.

The new sentence involves punishing with a fine a conduct that many jurists find protected by freedom of expression and comes after Belgium has declared the crime of insulting the crown unconstitutional as a result of the case of the young Majorcan known as Valtonyc. As a result of the imprisonment of Pablo Hasel from Lleida, the Government promised last year to repeal prison sentences for insults to the crown and other crimes of expression, but the reform has remained in a drawer. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has already ruled that freedom of expression protected even burning photos of the monarch.

The defense argued, based on European jurisprudence, that the tweet was not a call to literally behead Felipe VI, but that it had to be framed as a political criticism of the monarchy. The central criminal judge of the National High Court, José Manuel Fernández Prieto, rejects the arguments of the defense, considering that the tweet is “it is clearly injurious because that is why one should call another person a son of a bitch.”

For the magistrate, the tweet is not protected by criticism or freedom of expression “because to show an anti-monarchist conviction it is not necessary to come to the insult, nor accompany it with a public invitation to cut the throat, the latter expression that reflects the clear intention to insult that guided the subject by calling the monarch a son of a bitch”.

The sentence, against which there is room for appeal before the Criminal Chamber of the National High Court, recalls the doctrine of the Supreme Court by which the exercise of freedom of expression “cannot simply justify the use of expressions or names that are insulting, injurious or humiliating that exceed the right of criticism, even if they are people with public relevance, since the Constitution does not recognize the right to insult.