Amnesty International accuses Spain of using counter-terror laws to curtail free expression

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SPEAKING FREELY: The Amnesty International NGO has criticised Spain's prosecuting of certain people under anti-terror laws

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, the global human rights charity, has called out Spain for what it said was its use of laws prohibiting the glorification of terrorism to limit free speech.

The NGO said the Spanish state had prosecuted social media users, musicians and journalists under the legislation which criminalises comments made in support of terror organisations.

The laws have stifled free speech and creative expression, according to the group in its report on the legislation.

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Estaban Beltran, the director of Amnesty International Spain, said people should not face criminal charges for saying, tweeting or singing something considered distasteful or shocking.

“Sending rappers to jail for song lyrics and outlawing political satire demonstrates how narrow the boundaries of acceptable online speech have become in Spain,” he said.

“Spain’s broad and vaguely-worded law is resulting in the silencing of free speech and the crushing of artistic expression.”

Legislation covering comments made in support of terrorism comes under Article 578 of the Spanish penal code. A total of 31 people were convicted under the law last year and 35 were in 2016.

The report recommends repealing the law and revising the Spanish criminal code to ensure that free expression is protected.

The report also highlights an EU anti-terror Directive set to come into force in September 2018 which also includes glorifying terrorism as a potential offence.

Eda Seyhan, the NGO’s counter-terrorism campaigner, said: “Spain is emblematic of a disturbing trend which has seen states across Europe unduly restrict expression.”

“This is done under the pretext of national security and it is stripping away rights under the guise of defending them.”

Amnesty International’s intervention comes as Mallorca rapper Valtonyc recently lost an appeal on his three and a half year prison sentence under the legislation.

Valtonyc, whose real name is Josep Miguel Arenas, was found guilty for glorifying terrorism and slandering the Spanish crown in his songs.

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