Tuesday, October 28, 2008


As I write this the Izquierda Unida mayor of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, is preparing to face a court charged with criticising the Spanish monarchy. The far-left firebrand says he has no regrets about the opinions he expressed about the Spanish monarch, Juan Carlos, and his father despite the possibility of being sentenced to jail.

The prosecutor has decided to take the matter to court because of what the mayor said in Los Barrios on April 14 at an event to commemorate the proclamation of the II Republic. During his speech the outspoken Barroso cast aspersions on the King and his father. He accused the monarch of being “corrupt” because of some of his business associations and said he was the “hijo de crápula”, accusing his father of being a libertine.

José Antonio Barroso insists that he spoke “under the umbrella of the constitutional right to free expression which all Spanish nationals are supposed to have” and that he was expressing his political convictions. However the judge in the Spanish High Court, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, on Monday refused to file the case saying that he considered the verbal attack on the King was “disproportionate” and beyond the bounds of free speech.

As a Briton I am free to criticise our Royal Family and I find it alarming that in a country where free speech is enshrined in the constitution the Spanish monarchy is placed outside of the law. I also believe that only a Spaniard is qualified to say whether King Juan Carlos and his family are a force for good or bad. As a foreign resident I would say “good” but as Barroso rightly argues, it should be the right of all Spanish nationals to voice their genuinely held views, be they political or otherwise, without fear of prosecution.

I wonder what King Juan Carlos makes of all this. At various conferences for journalists he has defended strongly the freedom of the press and the right to free speech. Surely the Spanish monarch does not believe that applies to all except him?

Whether what Barroso says about the King and his father is true or not – it is his personally held view and therefore in my book he has the perfect right to express it. Freedom of speech is after all a basic human right recognised and defended by the United Nations.

I think it was Voltaire who said – “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” Let’s hope the prosecutor and the judge take note.

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