A 21-year-old Spanish college student has been sentenced to a year in prison for a series of jokes about the 40-year-old assassination of a successor to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
The assassination was committed by a radical separatist group called Basque Homeland and Liberty (Eta). Some historians have noted that the murder of Blanco was instrumental in later establishing democracy in the country.
Back in 2013, Vera tweeted: “Eta launched a policy against official cars combined with a space programme.” Another tweet reads: “Kissinger gave Carrero Blanco a piece of the moon; Eta paid for the trip there.”
Spain’s top criminal court found the student guilty of humiliating victims and glorifying terrorism. In addition to one year in prison, she was also prohibited from taking any job that is publicly funded, such as being a teacher, for seven years.
The court ruling has raised concerns in Spain. The ruling conservative party says it respects the court’s decision, while left-leaning parties have issued a defense of the student.
“Joking is not a crime and Spain is not a dictatorship,” tweeted Pablo Iglesias, leader of the anti austerity Podemos party. “If that lands you in the Audiencia Nacional [Spain’s top criminal court], then let them take me there along with Cassandra.”
The student, who’s a studying history at Murcia University, said that the jokes didn’t try to glorify terrorists or humiliate the victims.
“It was a joke—nothing more than that,” she told The Guardian. “I don’t regret doing it. It was just humour—and this kind of humour is very accepted in Spain so I don’t think I have anything to be sorry for.”
Vera also said it was surprising to find herself standing in the top Spain’s top criminal court because the 13 tweets were taken out of more than 90,000 she had published.
“It’s where the country’s corruption cases end up, and the drug traffickers and the terrorists,” she said. “I can’t believe that I ended up there for a joke in today’s Spain.”
The student pointed out that while most people in Spain learned to understand that the Franco dictatorship was a “cruel period”, some people appear to be lagging behind.
“The majority of Spanish society has accepted its past and recognized that the dictatorship was a cruel period,” she told the paper. “And it knows that while jokes about Carrero Blanco may be in bad taste, they’re socially acceptable. But judges and prosecutors don’t see it that way and haven’t adapted.”
Even the assassinated general’s daughter, Lucia Carrero Blanco, came out in support of Vera before the trial and wrote to the Spanish newspaper El País, slamming “absolutely mad” decision to prosecute the student.
“I’m scared of a society in which freedom of expression—however regrettable it may be—can lead to jail sentences,” she wrote.