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Vox party official under scrutiny for alleged hate speech against Muslims

Spanish prosecutors are investigating a complaint by an Islamic association in connection with a rally that talked about “the Islamist invasion”

Javier Ortega Smith in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Javier Ortega Smith in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. EFE

Spanish prosecutors in the Valencia region are investigating the secretary general of Vox, a far-right party, for public statements that might constitute a hate crime, said prosecution sources.

The decision to investigate Javier Ortega Smith, Vox’s number two official, comes after a group called Musulmanes Contra la Islamofobia (Muslims Against Islamophobia) filed a complaint in connection with a Vox rally held in Valencia in September of last year.

“We will be stronger against the common enemy who has a very clear name, and I will not refrain from speaking out this name,” said Ortega Smith at that event, which was captured on video. “Our common enemy, the enemy of Europe, the enemy of progress, the enemy of democracy, the enemy of family, the enemy of life, the enemy of the future is called the Islamist invasion.”

Although Ortega Smith used the world Islamist, not Muslim, the context of his remarks suggests that he was not talking specifically about Jihadist terrorists, but about all followers of Islam

Although Ortega Smith used the world Islamist, not Muslim, the context of his remarks suggests that he was not talking specifically about Jihadist terrorists, but about all followers of Islam. “What’s at stake is our very notion of civilization,” said the Vox leader at the September rally. “But we are not alone; as you know, growing numbers of Europeans are standing up because they are suffering in their own cities, streets and neighborhoods what it means to apply the Sharia, and they are not ready to have their cathedrals torn down to be forcibly replaced by mosques. They are not ready to see their women have to cover their faces with a black cloth and walk 10 steps behind, treated worse than a camel. They are not ready for the end of what we view as civilization out of respect for rights and freedoms.”

Sources at the Valencia prosecutor’s office said that after accepting the complaint, there is now a six-month period to investigate the facts and either shelve the case if there is no evidence that a crime was committed, or pursue proceedings against Ortega Smith.

According to the Muslim association’s complaint, his statements are “flatly false” and constitute “an attack against social harmony by encouraging an atmosphere of fear and rejection of Muslim communities.” There are two million Muslims in Spain, of which nearly half are Spanish citizens.

On March 15, two mosques in New Zealand were the targets of terrorist attacks by a white supremacist “who could have easily adopted as his own views much of [Ortega’s] rhetoric,” said Muslims Against Islamophobia.

Prosecutors must now determine whether the Vox official incurred in a hate crime as described in Article 510.1 of the Criminal Code, which sets out prison sentences of one to four years and 12-month fines for those found guilty of”publicly fomenting, promoting or inciting, directly or indirectly, hate, hostility, discrimination or violence against a group [...] for racist, antisemitic or other motives associated with ideology, religion or beliefs.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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