On the 5th of February, the “Títeres Desde Abajo” Company was staging a performance of “The Witch and Don Cristobal” as part of Madrid’s Carnival celebrations. Before Alfonso and Raúl could finish their performance, both puppeteers were arrested by the police and charged for “glorifying terrorism” because one of the puppets handed another puppet a small sign which read “Gora alka-eta” (“Long live ETA”, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna being the main group within the Basque National Liberation Movement).
On the 6th of February, the judge of the National High Court, Ismael Moreno, according to district attorney Carmen Monfort, put them in custody without bail and also added to the sentence, incitement to hatred, alleging a nonexistent flight risk and criminal reiteration.
During the first days, the media and politicians used the case as a smokescreen to deflect from other cases of corruption, and to attack Madrid’s local government. In the meantime the puppeteers’ rights were neglected and ignored by everyone. However, many of us refused to be deceived and we began to mobilize on the streets, organizing protests and mass meetings, which led to a rectification by the court.
Alfonso and Raúl were released after spending five days at the Soto del Real prison, under F.I.E.S. 3 regime (terrorist organization). But the prosecution continues to prosecute them for the same crimes, which could lead to up to 7 years in prison and a 30 month fine.
What were those dangerous puppeteers saying?
As wikipedia explain, Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular, and usually very violent puppet show featuring Pulcinella (Mr. Punch) and his wife, Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters. The Punch and Judy show has roots in the 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte. The figure of Punch derives from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, which was anglicized to Punchinello.
This kind of popular entertainment was always used to mock the authority, showing the population’s wishes in a symbolic way.
This tradition remains alive in many European countries, but disappeared in Spain after the Civil War. “Títeres desde Abajo” wanted to revive this lost tradition.
The performance was about a Witch who must deal with different characters who attempt to oppress her with blackjacks. Between those oppressive characters, a police puppet appears. After leaving her unconscious, he places several pieces of evidence at her house to frame her for a crime which glorified terrorism. Among those pieces of evidence is the sign. This scene was intended to denounce police set-ups (like the 4F case, Pandora case…), and the witch hunts carried out against social movements.
As of a few days ago, Alfonso and Raúl must report to their nearest court daily. Now, and after the lawyer’s appeal, they must go every 15 days. The prosecutor also asked that the defendants surrender their passports, and they are not allowed to leave the country.
Charges for glorifying terrorism and incitement to hatred still hang over them. The reform of the Criminal Code approved in 2015 June, and the Gag Rule, increasing the ambiguity and the time of the punishment for those crimes.
Sadly, this is only one of several such cases in Spain in the last few years. They have the attention of several international organizations such as OSCE (Organization for Security and co-operation in Europe), European Court of Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs. But this is the first attempt to criminalize something that happens in a work of fiction. Not only were the puppeteers’ rights neglected and ignored, but also the fundamental right of free speech and creativity.
Therefore, we cannot allow this continue. So from “Libertad Titiriteros” campaign, we demand this case be dropped and have all charges removed against Alfonso and Raúl.