Case 11

Toni Albà

The actor and tweeter Toni Albà, known for his imitations of the previous Spanish King, Juan Carlos I on Catalan public television, tried because of some comments over Twitter

Mr. Albà has stated that: “I have been imitating the King for 16 years, and I had already looked into whether this could lead me to court. Animus ofendi is not the same as Animus jocandi. I’m not here to offend, but to joke.

I make humorous tweets, but the judge was very worried that “you have many followers.” (…) he was worried that I have many followers… Don’t you realize that I do not control it? They want to control people’s thinking and do they not realize that the historical age for such a thing has passed?”


Actor Toni Albà was summoned to testify at the beginning of December 2017. When he enquired the reason for such a thing at the corresponding court of Vilanova i la Geltrú, where he resides, he was told that they could not reveal what the reasons were for a case to be filed against him. Initially, a leakage through the press indicated that it was due to his imitations of the Spanish monarch, and it was speculated, therefore, that the accusation would have to do with the crime of “injuries to the crown” according to the Spanish legal framework. Later on, Mr. Albà found out thanks to the media – to whom the court had granted access to the case file – that the summons was due to tweets in which Mr. Albà made anagrams, word games, and humorous palindromes in relation to several famous people from the political domain, amongst whom there was Judge Carmen Lamela, who instructed the cases against prisoners and exiled Catalan political representatives. In the hearing of Mr. Albà before the judge of January 30, 2018, the judge insisted that the problem is that “he has many followers”.

Source: Creative Commons


Since 2016, a series of judicial proceedings against several people with a projection on the social and professional networks of the world of comedy and humour have begun on the part of Spain. The cases pointed at critical and divergent voices, especially when it had to do with humourists and comedians or singers who had targeted the Monarchy, or made funny comments online about past events that involved terrorist violence, or the violent action of the police forces in Spain. All such statements were all prosecuted judicially. The authors’ intention had always intended to be humorous, artistic, or simply put; as expression of free critical thinking expression. Since the year 2014, the Spanish paramilitary Police force “Guardia Civil” has been carrying out the so-called “Spider Operation” aimed at pursuing cases of terrorism apology. This is the case, for example, with Cassandra Vera, who made various funny tweets in relation to the attack in which dictator’s Francisco Franco’s Prime Minister was killed in 1975. Miss Vera was tried and sentenced to one year in prison and finally acquitted after having successfully appealed the sentence. Amongst this, features the proceedings against Mr. Albà for having posted a photo of “Guardia Civil” and “Policía Nacional” officers, posing triumphant and joyful in front of the Police-transporting ships chartered by the Spanish government in order to repress the Catalan referendum on October 1. The Picture featured a humorous comment that resulted in a first accusation of injuries to be filed against him.

The outcome

On May 31, 2018, Mr. Albà was again summoned to the courts in order to be informed that the same cause was expanded with new tweets of his. Once his statement before the judge was completed, his lawyer requested the proceedings to be terminated. In the words of Mr. Albà: “Freedom of expression is a right that I have 100% (…). The pre-trial phase is an open cause to all and everything that can influence socially, and against the freedom of thought and for people to have the freedom to sing, to give one’s opinions, and to the whole society … I think that this case is not against me, but against the whole society.”

The judge, however, has decided to start an investigation against him on account of the tweets published.The prosecutor’s office has requested for Mr. Albà to be fined with a sum of € 19,200. Mr. Albà has made this news public through his Twitter account (15-11-2018) and has stated that this is an attempt to “punish disent”. The actor has also described the judiciary as “pathetic”.

The Freemuse 2018 Report places Spain as the country with the largest number of imprisoned artists.


Violated laws

Violation of article 20 of the Spanish Constitution, which clearly indicates in its first section that it recognizes and protects the rights – among others – to:

a) To express and spread freely thoughts, ideas and opinions by word, in writing, or by any other means of production.
b) Literary, artistic, scientific and technical production and creation.

Violation of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
“Every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes not being disturbed because of their opinions, researching for and receiving information and opinions, and spreading them without limitation because of borders, by any means of expression».

Violation of article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, where the right to freedom of expression is established.


Toni Albà summoned to court for some ironic tweets on May 31 (in Catalan)

Toni Albà summoned to court due to an accusation of injuries at the Mercè 2016 opening session (in Catalan)

Amnesty International accuses Spain of restricting freedom of speech (in English)

“The New York Times” denounces attacks on freedom of expression in Spain” (in English)

The Supreme Court acquits Cassandra Vera for her tweets with jokes about Carrero Blanco (in Spanish)

Cassandra case (in English)

Actor Eduard Biosca investigated for a joke about the Spanish police of his character “El Senyor Bohigues” at RAC I (in Catalan)

Freemuse Report 2018, on the repression of the freedom of expression of artists worldwide. Spain occupies the first position in the number of imprisoned artists (in English)

The Prosecutor’s office asks for a fine of € 12,900 to Toni Albà (in Catalan)


Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

European Convention on Human Rights

Other documents about the specific case, to be posted when available.

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