13th July 2024
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Willy Toledo released after being detained for blasphemy

Willy Toledo, the Spanish actor accused of blasphemy, was released without bail after being questioned in court on Thursday, in the latest high profile case to raise free speech fears in the country.

Toledo, a cinema and television actor, is facing a complaint over a social media post last year.

He was arrested in Madrid on Wednesday after he had twice failed to show up for questioning.

Willy Toledo
Spanish actor Guillermo ‘Willy’ Toledo smiles as he gives a press conference at the San Carlos Borromeo parish in Madrid on 22 May 2018. He is accused of blasphemy for comments an association said ridiculed ‘God and the Virgin Mary’. He was detained on 12 September 2018 after he twice failed to show up for questioning in a case that has raised free speech concerns. The affair is one of a string of cases of artists being probed or jailed for voicing their opinions in Spain which has raised concerns about freedom of expression. (AFP / Benjamin Cremel)

The case stems from a July 2017 Facebook message in which Toledo, 48, defended three women charged with blasphemy for staging a mock-religious procession wielding a giant vagina.

In profane language, Toledo expressed conempt in his post for God and the Virgin Mary.

He was denounced by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers for ‘covering God and the Virgin Mary with ridicule’.

Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem has spoken out in support of Toledo. He said the country risked a return to the repressive era of dictator Francisco Franco.

The judge hearing the case must now decide if he sends Toledo to trial.

Those found guilty of blasphemy can only be fined as the offence does not carry a prison sentence.

Toledo, who frequently defends Cuba and Venezuela’s communist regimes, told reporters he had asked the judge to shelve the case during the hearing.

‘It is worthy of a third world country that there are still five articles of the criminal code relating to insulting religious sentiments,’ he told reporters as he left the court.

The affair is one of a string of cases of artists being probed or jailed in Spain which have raised concerns about freedom of expression.

The cases date back to the time of Spain’s former conservative government, before the new Socialist leadership took office this year.

Several Twitter users and rappers have been tried for glorifying terrorism or insulting the king for comments or lyrics.

ALSO READ: Rapper Valtonyc extradition decision postponed

Amnesty International said the legal actions amount to ‘repression’ of freedom of expression.

Rapper Valtonyc this year fled to Belgium to avoid a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for glorifying terrorism, insulting the king and issuing threats in his lyrics.

A Belgian court is due to decide on 17 September whether or not to extradite the 24-year-old.

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