Catalan teacher denies hate speech accusations at court

Manel Riu tells court in Tremp that his tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Spain are not criminal

Manel Riu (foreground) escorted by supporters in Tremp (by Marta Lluvich)
Manel Riu (foreground) escorted by supporters in Tremp (by Marta Lluvich) / ACN

ACN | Tremp

January 18, 2018 03:13 PM

A Catalan high school teacher, Manel Riu, appeared in court on Thursday accused of hate speech for his tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Spain, government members and the Guardia Civil police. Over a hundred people escorted him to court in Tremp, west of Catalonia, where he denied any wrongdoing and asked for the case’s dismissal.

The case against Riu includes 119 tweets gathered by the Guardia Civil. Most of them can still be found online in his account (@Mireiagalindo). On November 9, he tweeted: “I don’t believe in God, or in the soul, or eternal life, or heaven, or hell… Actually, I do believe in hell: hell is Spain.”

He thanked people who stood by him for their support. “Brutal. Emotional. Thanks a lot to everybody,” he tweeted, “especially to my students and ex-students, you almost made me cry.” Other than his pupils, the crowd that accompanied him also included pro-independence parties members, and the mayor of Tremp, Joan Ubach.

After the hearing, he said that the aim of the prosecution was to instill fear in people to prevent them from freely expressing their ideas. He also pointed out that other teachers and Twitter users are also facing criminal charges in Catalonia in relation to the October 1 referendum.

The Spanish Guardia Civil arrested him on November 16, informing him that he was accused of hate speech on social media. He exercised his right to remain silent and was subsequently released. On Thursday, Riu responded to all questions.