BARCELONA, Spain – Thousands of protesters took to some of the streets of Barcelona on Tuesday night to demand the release of a rapper arrested by Spanish police after being sentenced to prison on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs. .
Dozens of policemen stormed the Lleida university in northeastern Spain earlier that day and arrested rapper Pablo Hasel after he barricaded himself there. Hasel, known for his radical leftist views, missed a deadline last Friday to surrender to the police and serve a nine-month jail sentence handed down in 2018, a sentence that sparked an uproar in Spain and prompted the government to announce that it would do freedom of expression. less restrictive laws.
Hasel was convicted of letters and tweets that included references to the Basque separatist paramilitary group ETA, compared Spanish judges to Nazis, and called former King Juan Carlos a mob boss.
After Hasel’s arrest, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told reporters that jailing people for freedom of expression should not happen in a democracy like Spain.
Hasel took refuge in the university with a group of supporters on Monday. They briefly clashed with police Tuesday morning, throwing over chairs and emptying fire extinguishers, before officers carrying weapons and wearing protective helmets detained Hasel.
News footage showed thousands of people marching through some of the main streets of Barcelona, shouting “Freedom for Pablo Hasel.” There were also protests in other cities and towns in the Catalonia region.
There were some clashes between protesters and riot police, with images showing burning garbage cans, looted shops and items thrown at officers trying to disperse the crowd, sometimes with batons and foam projectiles.
Mossos d’Escuadra, the Catalan regional police, said on Twitter that protesters burned motorcycles and containers, created barricades and blocked the streets of Barcelona, and that 14 people had been arrested.
“Could it be you”
“Victory will be ours. … There will be no forgetting or forgiveness, ”Hasel shouted, with his fist raised, as the police surrounded him and took him to jail, having retweeted the letter for which he was convicted several hours earlier.
“Tomorrow it could be you,” Hasel added in a message to his 125,000 followers.
More than 200 artists, including film director Pedro Almodóvar, actor Javier Bardem and singer Joan Manuel Serrat, signed a petition opposing Hasel’s prison sentence.
Spain’s left-wing government said last week in response to the case that it would reform the “gag law” enacted in 2015 by a previous administration to prevent the glorification of banned armed groups like ETA. The law also prohibits insults against religion and the monarchy.
The government said it would introduce lighter penalties, focus only on actions that pose a risk to public order or that may provoke violence, and that it will uphold tolerance of artistic, cultural and intellectual forms of expression.
ETA announced its dissolution in 2018 after a four-decade campaign of violence that ended in 2010.