Spanish police arrest pandemic denier for inciting hatred

People walk along a shopping street in the Las Delicias neighbourhood of Zaragoza in northeastern Spain on Aug 10, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (REUTERS) - Spanish police said on Friday (Aug 28) they had arrested a man near the north-eastern city of Zaragoza, who believed the coronavirus pandemic to be a hoax, for inciting hatred and violence across several anonymous social media profiles.

The 38-year-old, who claimed that health professionals and the media were behind what he called the "Covid farce", urged his followers to attack politicians and journalists, police said.

"All this would be solved with a shot to the back of (Spanish Prime Minister) Pedro Sanchez's head," he wrote on one of his accounts.

In other posts, he said the headquarters of Spain's doctors' union should be burned down and described those who believed in the virus as bad and ignorant people who deserved to die, according to the police.

Passing himself off as a government official, the suspect allegedly made calls to nursing homes, hospitals and football clubs to spread false information about the pandemic, police said.

They were able to trace the man, described as a "grave danger" to public health, to a location just outside Zaragoza, the regional capital of Aragon.

Itinerant fruit pickers have been linked to several outbreaks in the region, which has been at the centre of Spain's recent resurgence in infections. It has the highest prevalence of the virus over the past two weeks, with 404 cases per 100,000 people.

On Thursday, Spain reported, 3,781 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 429,507 - the highest in western Europe.

During the epidemic's peak, Spain imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns and introduced stringent mask-wearing rules when it was lifted at the end of June.

While compliance with national restrictions remains the norm, a small but vocal anti-mask movement has been gaining prominence in the past few months, spurred on by the endorsement of 1980s pop star Miguel Bose.

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