Burning king’s photo is free speech: EU ruling warns Spain

The Spanish government was dealt a legal blow on Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the prosecution of people caught burning photos of Spain’s monarchy.

Burning king’s photo is free speech: EU ruling warns Spain
Spain will have to reimburse the plaintiffs it fined for burning photos of King Juan Carlos in 2007. Photo: AFP
The case in question stems from the 2008 sentencing of Enric Stern and Jaume Roura who burned images of the Spanish king and queen at the time, Juan Carlos and Sofía, during the monarchs’ visit to the Catalan city of Girona in 2007.
Both men were handed out €2700 fines to avoid prison and a warning that they’d have to serve 15 months behind bars if the sum wasn’t paid.
The ECHR in Strasbourg has now ruled that the decade-old ruling by Spain’s National High Court was “a breach of freedom of expression” and consequently ordered Spain to reimburse the previously accused and now plaintiffs, as well as pay €9,000 in damages.  
According to leading Spanish daily El País, the court considered that the burning of the photos “is the kind of provocative scene that’s being used more and more often to get the attention of the media and doesn’t go over the line when getting a critical message across in terms of freedom of expression.” 
“The ruling says important things about Catalonia in 2018. The court emphasizes that any act of political criticism must have special protection and also denies that it is an act of incitement to violence,” Benet Salellas, Stern and Roura’s lawyer, told regional broadcaster V3. 
According to Salellas, “Strasbourg’s decision reiterates the non-violent character of Catalonia’s independence movement, and the ruling makes it clear that criticism of Spanish state institutions can never be called hate speech”.
Spain’s Constitutional Court has hit back at the ECHR by stating that the European legal body supposedly claims “to sanction and even prevent all forms of expression that spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance”. 
They stood accused of violating the dignity of a head of state, a crime in Spain, but were pardoned by the National High Courts.


Row in Spain over reports King Felipe’s sisters got Covid vaccine in the UAE

Reports that Spanish King Felipe VI's sisters got vaccinated for the coronavirus in the UAE sparked controversy Wednesday, with hard left party Podemos, part of the ruling coalition, saying such "privileges" served to "discredit" the monarchy.

Row in Spain over reports King Felipe's sisters got Covid vaccine in the UAE
Spain's Royal Family - Princesses Elena and Cristina are directly next to King Felipe's right (in the blue suit). Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

According to El Mundo and El Confidencial, Princess Elena, 57, and Princess Cristina, 55, got the inoculations in February while visiting their father, ex-king Juan Carlos, in Abu Dhabi.

The two royals would not yet qualify for the jab under Spain’s Covid-19 immunisation programme, which gives priority to older people and the most vulnerable.

Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014, moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August amid growing questions over his financial dealings.

A spokesman for the royal palace refused to comment on the reports on the grounds that the princesses are formally “not part” of the institution and the palace has no say in their activities.

Podemos, the junior partner in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government which is staunchly anti-monarchy, strongly criticised the royals.

“The vaccination of the princesses is more news which contributes to discrediting the monarchy. For the public, this constitutes preferential treatment and privileges,” Equality Minister Irene Montero, a member of Podemos, told public television TVE.

The monarchy is one of several issues which dividing Podemos and the Socialists, which have governed since January 2020.

It is the first time that an anti-monarchy party has been in power since Spain returned to democracy in the 1970s.

The controversy over the vaccinations comes less than a week after Juan Carlos settled a debt of nearly 4.4 million euros ($5.3 million) with the

Spanish tax authorities in a bid to avoid a potential lawsuit. The back-taxes were due on the previously undeclared value of private jet flights — worth eight million euros, according to press reports — paid by a foundation based in Liechtenstein belonging to a distant cousin of Juan Carlos.

The payment caused outrage in Spain, with Sanchez saying he shared the “rejection” which the “majority” of Spaniards feel towards what he called Juan Carlos’ “uncivic behaviour”.

The country’s former intelligence chief, Felix Sanz Roldan, also received the coronavirus vaccine in Abu Dhabi duri

ng a visit to Juan Carlos, according to Spanish media reports.

Spain’s chief of defence staff resigned in January after it was revealed that he got the coronavirus jab in Spain despite not being on a priority list.