Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flag burning and insulting the king still illegal in Spain

I was surprised to see that burning flags and/or pictures of the king is still a serious offense in Spain, punishable by up to two years in prison.

It seems like there’s an obvious constitutional argument to be made that burning the flag could be considered political speech (given the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled in 2007 that even Holocaust denial is protected speech).

The problem in Spain is that unlike the US, only the Constitutional Court can rule on the constitutionality of a law (whereas in the US any court can strike down a law as unconstitutional, but this can be appealed up the the Supreme Court), so it takes years for any case to be appealed on constitutional issues.

So in Spain, you’d first get convicted (even if the judge thinks the law is unconstitutional, he can’t do anything about it), then spend two years in prison, then five years later the Constitutional Court would find that the law is unconstitutional.

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