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Spanish actor Willy Toledo arrested over religious offense complaint

Activist had ignored two court summons in connection with a 2017 Facebook post ridiculing God and the Virgin Mary

Willy Toledo leaves court in Madrid on Thursday morning.
Willy Toledo leaves court in Madrid on Thursday morning.

Willy Toledo, a Spanish actor, theater producer and left-wing political activist, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon near his house in Madrid. Toledo had ignored two summons to appear in court for questioning over a complaint filed against him by a Christian lawyers association, which claims he offended religious sentiment in a July 2017 Facebook post.

Toledo had previously announced that he would not show up in court, as he felt that he’d committed no offense. The actor was brought before a judge on Thursday morning after spending the night in the cells. His lawyer complained that he was unable to speak to Toledo after his arrest, something he described as “unheard of.”

I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary

Willy Toledo

Toledo was taken into the courtroom on Thursday morning escorted by police officers, but without handcuffs. On entering, he was visibly agitated, and shouted: “You should disappear from the face of the Earth!” either in reference to the judge or one of the lawyers, given that they were the only people present.

The case stems from an online message Toledo posted on July 5, 2017, which said: “I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary. This country is unbearably shameful. I’m disgusted. Go fuck yourselves. Long live the Insubordinate Pussy.”

He posted this message shortly after the beginning of a trial in Seville against three women who had paraded a large model of a vagina around the city as though it were an Easter religious procession. The women called this event “the procession of the Insubordinate Pussy.”

The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers filed a complaint against Toledo “for shitting on the dogma, and because his words were an offense against religious sentiment,” said the group’s president, Polonia Castellanos, adding that this is a publicity stunt by Toledo because everyone has the obligation to appear in court when summoned.

The association has also asked the judge to consider whether Toledo may have committed a hate crime, after stating on TV that people who were executed during the Civil War because of their religious faith “must have done something” to deserve it.

Article 525 of the Spanish Criminal Code sets out monetary fines for those who offend the feelings of the members of a religious confession by “publicly disparaging their dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies.” The same penalties are applicable to those who publicly disparage people “who do not profess any religion or belief whatsoever.”

Toledo was released on Thursday morning after appearing in court. He told reporters that he didn’t believe that he had “committed any kind of crime,” and that, by forcing the police to arrest him, he was staging “an act of civil disobedience.”

As he exited the courthouse, dozens of citizens shouted the common Spanish curse “I shit on God!” and burst into applause in support.

“I am doing what I have to do, which is to draw attention to this, because it is shameful that there are still five articles in the criminal code related to religious sentiments,” Toledo told reporters. He went on to say that he didn’t know whether the trial would go ahead but that he would go “all the way” in support of anyone who is being persecuted for what they think.

English version by Susana Urra and Simon Hunter.

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