The man published a video alleging that a Moroccan sexually assaulted a woman.
A Spanish Twitter user has become the first person in the country jailed for publishing “fake news,” after he claimed that a man seen on video assaulting a woman was a Moroccan rapist. He has also been fined and ordered to “take a course on equality and human rights.”
The defendant, who worked in law enforcement, took a plea deal and accepted a 15-month prison sentence, El Mundo reported on Tuesday. The Barcelona High Court will now decide whether to suspend the sentence or send the man to prison. In addition, he has been fined 1,620 euro ($1,619), banned from creating “profiles on the internet to defame,” and ordered to “take a course on equality and human rights,” in the words of the newspaper.
The case began in 2019 with the rape of a woman in Canet de Mar, a beachside town north of Barcelona. After the incident, the defendant posted a video of a man kicking and punching a woman, before dragging her to the ground by her hair. He claimed in his post that the man was a Moroccan receiving government benefits in Canet de Mar, and that “packs of Moroccans” were responsible for more sexual assaults in the area.
The video was unrelated to the rape, and had actually been filmed in China. However, police did arrest two underage North African migrants for the rape in Canet de Mar. One teen raped the woman, while the other recorded the assault, police said.
While the nationality of the two suspects was not identified in the media, they were housed in an accommodation center for North African migrants. Officials at the center had warned local authorities of “controversial behavior” by residents.
The Spanish government passed its controversial ‘Intervention against Disinformation’ law in 2020, allowing law enforcement to surveil social media for false information and punish those responsible. The law was condemned by Reporters Without Borders, who said that it would “erode press freedom” and give the government the “power to decide what is and is not disinformation.”