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'Shooting 26 million' in ex-military WhatsApp chat is 'freedom of expression,' not crime

Public Prosecutor's Office says chat mentioning coup not intended to incite violence

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03 March 2021 07:19 PM

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ACN | Madrid

An investigation into a WhatsApp group involving former high-ranking members of the Spanish Air Force that included messages such as "there is no choice but to start shooting 26 million sons of bitches," has been archived by Madrid's provincial Public Prosecutor's Office.

They concluded that the chat was not criminal, and was a "private" group where the retired military veterans "expressed their opinions freely and in confidence among friends without any wish to advertise them outside this realm."

The conversation, which mentioned the possibility of a coup, was therefore protected by "freedom of expression," according to the Prosecutor's Office.

The Spanish Ministry of Defense reported the WhatsApp group to the Public Prosecutor's Office in December when its existence was revealed by the online publication infoLibre.

The Public Prosecutor ruled that "there are no elements to conclude that it was created to promote, encourage or incite hatred, hostility or violence against any group."

Although the terms used may be considered "inappropriate, excessive or unfortunate", they should be understood as "a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the current political situation."

Other messages included threats against the pro-independence civic group ANC (Catalan National Assembly). According to infoLibre, the retired colonel, Ángel Díaz Rivera, wrote that "someone will have to start doing something (legal or illegal) against these sons of bitches [ANC]."

There were also messages in support of the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera and Franco.

In recent weeks, the debate around freedom of expression has spilled over, with several nights of protests across Catalonia after rapper Pablo Hasel was imprisoned over the content of his lyrics and tweets.

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  • Planes from the Spanish Air Force's Eagle Patrol with an aerobatics display at Lleida-Alguaire Airport, September 23, 2018 (Festa del Cel)

  • Planes from the Spanish Air Force's Eagle Patrol with an aerobatics display at Lleida-Alguaire Airport, September 23, 2018 (Festa del Cel)

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