Spain and Muslim Apostasy
By Adam Turner
Imran Firasat, a Muslim-turned-Christian from Pakistan who currently resides in Spain, is facing down a Spanish government that seems determined to punish him for his film, The Innocent Prophet, about the prophet Muhammad. The Spanish government has: 1) revoked his Spanish residency and now threatens to extradite him; and 2) initiated a prosecution for violating a Spanish hate speech law. The Spanish authorities have justified their revocation of his residency on the grounds that he is “threatening national security with the production of this video.” Although Mr. Firasat is originally from Pakistan, the Spanish authorities might also deport him to Indonesia, where his wife is from (and still lives) and where Firasat lived from 2008 through 2010. Meanwhile, the accompanying hate speech prosecution filed against Mr. Firasat is because his film violates section 510 of the Spanish Penal Code, which is a crime that punishes incitation to hatred and violence for racial, ideological or religious reasons. More facts about Imran Firasat’s case may be found in an earlier column I wrote, here. In interest of full disclosure I should note, that the Legal Project is providing financial assistance to his attorney.
The most disturbing part of this Spanish campaign against Mr. Firasat is that the Spanish government really should know better than to push for Imran Firasat’s deportation from Spain. As the government is aware, if he is sent to Pakistan, he may face death for his frequent blasphemy.
As the government is aware, if he is sent to Indonesia, the Indonesian authorities have actually accused Mr. Firasat, and convicted him, in abstentia, of a spurious murder charge. The Spanish learned this fact two years ago, when Interpol to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer placeis the world’s largest international police organization, with 190 member countries. Our role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. is the world’s largest international police organization, with 190 member countries. Our role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. contacted them regarding an Indonesian warrant. At that time, a Spanish judge ruled that the Indonesian conviction was not strong enough to merit his expulsion from Spain. The Spanish also know that Mr. Firasat has been accused — but not convicted — of blasphemy charge(s) in Indonesia. After all, Spain originally gave him refuge because his criticism of Islam, in various Muslim nations, put him in danger of blasphemy punishment anywhere within the Muslim world.
So, to sum up, the Spanish authorities are trying to remove Imran Firasat from Spain, even though they are aware that: 1) if he were sent back to Pakistan, he very well might be killed for blasphemy; 2) if he were sent back to Indonesia he would be exposed to either a murder conviction or a blasphemy charge, or possibly both; and 3) if he were deported elsewhere, there is an Interpol warrant hanging over his head that could be used to send him back to Indonesia to the same result.
Firasat’s legal problems began in 2010, while he was living in Indonesia when he was arrested for his “blasphemy” on the web against Islam. The Indonesians threatened to charge him for a violation of the 1965 Indonesian law against blasphemy, Article 156(A) of the penal code. This law stipulates up to five years in prison for anyone who publicly shows “enmity” or “abuses or stains” a religion adhered to in Indonesia, or prevents other people from adhering to such a religion. Indonesia’s blasphemy law penalty is not as serious as those of some other Muslim nations, like Pakistan, but a conviction in Indonesia is still nothing to make light of. In 2012, in Indonesia, a man named Sebastian Joe was given five years for his “blasphemy.” Apparently, one of Joe’s controversial statements was “God stingy and arrogant,” which he wrote on his Facebook page. It also appears that the Indonesian police had arrested Joe partly to protect him from an Islamist mob that was then descending on his home. Another Indonesian man, named Alexander, who is a confirmed atheist, was not so lucky. He was charged with writing “God does not exist” on a Facebook page he moderated, and was beaten by an Islamist mob before he was placed in police custody.
Imran Firasat was deported from Indonesia on July 7, 2010. But, just months after coming back to Spain — where he had resided from 2004 to 2008 — the Spanish authorities arrested him at the behest of Interpol and the Indonesians. Indonesia now claimed that on June 10, 2010, Mr. Firasat had committed a murder in Indonesia, and that on July 16, 2010 they had actually conducted a full trial and convicted him. Shockingly, this meant that the Indonesians had held Firasat for 27 days after his supposed murder, never charging him, and then deported him, before convicting him, 9 days later, for his supposed murder. Not surprisingly, the Spanish authorities — after giving the Indonesian authorities ample opportunities to appear in court and present their evidence– ultimately rejected extradition and left Imran Firasat free to live as a resident in Spain.
That is, until the Spanish heard about Mr. Firasat’s movie. In response to Firasat’s stated intent to release the film, the Spanish authorities began to threaten him with lawfare. Because of their threats, Firasat backed down. However, American Pastor Terry Jones, of Koran-burning fame, then took it upon himself to release the movie. Pastor Jones had a copy of it because he had earlier been approached by Mr. Firasat to help publicize the movie. So, even though Imran Firasat himself had not released the movie, the authorities followed through on their threats and removed his Spanish legal residency.
Now, Imran Firasat sits in a type of legal limbo, a man without a country, stuck in Spain where he can be detained by the police at any time, with only nations like Indonesia wanting him — to punish him for his speech. His only hope is that he will be successful in his administrative appeal to the High Court in Madrid to regain his Spanish residency.
When Spain let Imran Firasat first seek asylum in their nation, they knew all about his vociferous objections to Islam. They let him in anyway. Now, perhaps because of recent Islamist violence directed towards speech, the Spanish want to get rid of him. How craven can you get?
Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) and the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum. He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law. This column was written for the LP.