Spanish Comedian and TV host, Dani Mateo, is facing charges of hate crimes and defacement of state symbols after using the nation’s flag to blow his nose during a skit last month.
Mateo was called into court for the first round of proceedings Tuesday after a complaint was filed by the National Police union, Alternativa Sindical de la Policia, who alleged that publicly disgracing symbols of Spain was a violation of citizen’s rights and the freedoms enjoyed by a “democratic society.”
During the viral video, Mateo fakes a sneeze, using the nearby flag as a handkerchief, before hurriedly assuring the chuckling crowd, "I didn't want to offend anyone...I didn't want to offend Spaniards, nor the king, nor the Chinese who sell these rags (gesturing to the flag). Not rags, I didn't mean rags."
Due to the controversial skit, the comedian lost an advertising opportunity with an optician chain and gained a harsh comment from the Spanish Civil Guard on Twitter, which wrote: “Not respecting the flag is not a joke- it is gratuitously offending those who feel proud of it.”
Attorney General Maria Jose Segarra will be overseeing the trial. She is part of a delegation of prosecutors working together to create a regimented set of guidelines dictating the procedure in hate crimes which will be shared with prosecutors next year.
The committee was appointed after a number of high profile cases and online personalities recently rose into the public eye, and the lines of freedom of speech and hate speech were blurred, causing confusion in the courthouses.
Outside the courthouse, Mateo told reporters he was more concerned over the state of Spain. A society that fights so emphatically for its honor that it brings its comedians to court is not defending its values, but rather losing its own sense of greatness and generosity, he said.
Mateo said, “We have all talked a lot about the limits of humor. But now we are entering into the area of justice. As a citizen of this country, I’m worried because we are taking a clown to court for doing his job; and that worries me due to the image it creates of my country and my flag.”