Spain: protests follow arrest of Catalan rapper


The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Has√©l on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has¬†sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish¬†cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, Has√©l barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia’s¬†University of Lleida on Feb. 16. His¬†supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided¬†later that day by the¬†Catalan police force, the Mossos¬†d’Esquadra.¬†As he was led away, supporters shouted, “They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!”¬†Has√©l was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators¬†arrested¬†that night. Protests have¬†continued throughout the week.

Hasél was convicted in 2018 over Twitter messages and song lyrics that allegedly praised terrorism and insulted the Spanish monarchy. Under Spanish law, prison sentences can be imposed for such charges. However, the use of such sentences is criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, which in a 2018 report found that the country’s counter-terrorism laws give rise to a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Last May, Spain’s supreme court, Tribunal Supremo, reduced Has√©l’s prison sentence from two years to nine months. Amnesty International criticized the conviction, with Esteban Beltr√°n, director of Amnesty International Spain, calling it, “an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his freedom of expression.”¬†Last week, hundreds of Spanish public figures, including film director Pedro Almod√≥var, signed a petition against the conviction.

In response to the conviction, the Spanish government recently announced that it will look into reforming the country’s free speech laws.

Adapted from Jurist, Feb. 19. Used with permission.

Note: The charges against Has√©l appear to be related to his support of protest movements in Spain. Fellow¬†Spanish rapper Valt√≤nyc, who fled to Belgium in 2018 after being convicted of similar offenses, told reporters he felt “shame”¬†and “anger at seeing a colleague treated like this for doing what artists do, which is to provoke.” (BBC News)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  1. Pro-independence bloc gains in Catalan elections

    Pro-independence parties won enough seats in Catalonia’s regional parliament in the Feb. 14 elections to strengthen their majority. Early results indicate the pro-independence bloc won 50.9% of the vote, surpassing the 50% threshold for the first time. Leftist pro-independence¬†party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) said it will lead the regional government and seek the support of other parties for a referendum on independence.

    The center-right pro-independence¬†Junts per Catalunya¬†won an estimated 32 seats, while far-left pro-independence Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) got nine. Both those parties are considered key to achieving another pro-independence coalition government.

    Spanish nationalist far-right party¬†Vox¬†won 11 seats in Catalonia’s parliament for the first time, ahead of the¬†Partido Popular, the main Spanish conservative party. Vox is already the third-largest party in Spain’s national parliament, after the Socialists (PSOE) and PP. (Reuters)

  2. Belgium denies extradition of Spanish rapper

    The Ghent Court of Appeal in Belgium on May 16 refused to extradite Spanish rapper José Miguel Arenas Beltrán to Spain. Arenas, known by his stage name Valtònyc, was due to serve a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for allegedly insulting the Spanish royal family and praising the (disbanded) Basque terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), but he fled to Belgium before starting his sentence in 2018. (Jurist)