The Gibraltar government has filed a criminal complaint in Madrid against four leaders of the Spanish far-right Vox party, for incitement to hatred.
In the complaint, the Gibraltar government brings to the attention of the Spanish prosecutors a long list of statements emanating from the Vox party and its key leaders, which it claims reveal ‘a clear strategy of disparaging the Gibraltarians and our institutions in a manner which seems clearly designed to create an atmosphere of hatred among Spaniards towards Gibraltarians’.
Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said: ‘Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is deeply committed to the principle of freedom of expression, but we will not accept that this fundamental freedom should be abused by those who mean to cause us harm by inciting hatred against the people of Gibraltar.’
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Vox became the third-largest party in Spain after the 10 November general election. Part of the party’s election platform was calling Madrid to push for returning Gibraltar to Spain.
Vox members named in the complaint include leader Santiago Abascal and general secretary Javier Ortega Smith.
In addition to the criminal complaint, the Gibraltar government has also asked Spanish prosecutors to investigate an online group, ‘Gibraltar: Español’, which it claims ‘regularly disseminates unjustified allegations against Gibraltar and which has recently been an avid echo-chamber for the anti-Gibraltarian propaganda of Vox’. The government further states that ‘these matters will also be raised directly with the social media platforms that host the puerile content of this group’.
In a tweet from the official Vox Twitter account on 14 December, the far-right party branded Gibraltar under British rule a ‘nest of drug trafficking, smuggling, and home to all kinds of beach bars and covers to launder money.’ It added: ‘We must end that colony of parasites. We will never give up what belongs to us, # GibraltarEspañol.’
El Peñón bajo soberanía británica es un nido de narcotráfico, contrabando, y sede de todo tipo de chiringuitos y tapaderas para blanquear dinero.
— VOX ?? (@vox_es) December 14, 2019
Gibraltar is a small territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula that was ceded from Spain to Britain in 1713, although Spain continues to claim sovereignty over it. Its population is around 30,000.
Picardo said, ‘There is an important dividing line between the right to speak one’s mind, however much we may disagree with the views expressed, and the incitement to hatred, libel, slander or defamation’.
Today we have filed a criminal complaint in Spain against the political party Vox & those of its leaders who have repeatedly incited hatred against the people of Gibraltar. This is only the first of a number of different actions we will take to protect our people & our nation. pic.twitter.com/xg4qv6tnJN
— Fabian Picardo (@FabianPicardo) December 18, 2019
Picardo went on to add that Gibraltar ‘will not allow anyone to cross that line unchallenged and we will take every recourse available to us all and each of us, in every tribunal available to us, in order to counter those attempts we perceive to incite such hatred.’
‘History has seen these moments pass before without those who have raised the temperature in this way remaining unchallenged,’ said Picardo. ‘That won’t happen on my watch and whilst my Cabinet colleagues and I are responsible for the discharge of our affairs!’