Wednesday, March 3

Pablo Hasél: Third night of violence in Spain as protests continue over the imprisonment of the rap artist

Protests over the imprisonment of a rapper convicted of insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence were marred by riots for the third consecutive night on Thursday.

The plight of Pablo Hasél, who began serving a 9-month sentence in a northeastern prison this week, has sparked a heated debate over the limits of freedom of expression in Spain and a political storm over the use of violence both by the rapper “s supporters and the police.

The junior partner in the ruling coalition, the far-left United We Can (United We Can) party, filed a “full pardon” petition on Thursday for Hasél and another rapper, Valtònyc, who fled to Belgium in 2018 to avoid trial for charges of “glorifying” terrorism.

But to potentially increase the tension, judicial authorities in the northeastern region of Catalonia announced that Hasél lost a recent appeal and is considering an additional two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for obstruction of justice and assault in 2017. The sentence can be made. appeal again to the Court. Supreme Court of the country.

Like the previous two nights, the protests began on Thursday with large concentrations in several cities that were, at first, mostly peaceful.

In Barcelona, ​​the capital of Catalonia, hundreds of people sang, rapped and shouted “Pablo Hasél, Libertad!” And “Spanish media, manipulators!”. in a central square before dozens broke away from the main group to set fire to a barricade of dumpsters and a construction container that blocked a main artery in the city, throwing stones, bottles and other objects at riot police.

There were tense moments when flames threatened to spread to nearby buildings before firefighters arrived.

In the eastern coastal city of Valencia, police used batons to disperse protesters and arrested at least eight people, according to the regional Spanish government delegation.

About 80 people have been arrested and more than 100 injured since Hasél was taken out of a university where he had taken refuge after refusing to voluntarily report to the prison.

The facades of the headquarters of various political parties have been painted, a police station in the city of Vic was hit, and protesters significantly damaged the facades of shops and bank offices in several cities, including the capital Madrid.

The Catalan autonomous police have also launched an internal investigation to establish whether one of their foam bullets hit a young man who lost an eye in the protests.

The rapper and his followers say Hasél’s nine-month sentence for writing a critical song about former King Juan Carlos I, and for dozens of tweets that judges said glorified some of Spain’s missing terrorist groups, violates the right to freedom of expression.

In addition to that case, the rapper has previously faced other charges or has pending trials for assault, praising armed extremist groups, breaking into private venues and insulting the monarchy.

Their legal status has drawn considerable public attention because it comes after a number of other artists and social media personalities have been tried for violating Spain’s 2015 Public Safety Law, which was enacted by a previous government led by conservatives and criticized by human rights organizations. .

One of them was Valtònyc, who so far has avoided extradition from Belgium.

United We Can parliamentary spokesman Jaume Asens said on Thursday that the party had taken the first step in demanding an “urgent” and “full” pardon from both rappers. The pardons are a bureaucratic process and need the final approval of the Spanish government, which is currently in the hands of a left-wing coalition led by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Asens party.

And while both sides agreed to amend the criminal code to remove prison terms for crimes related to freedom of expression, the protests also opened the latest split in the shaky association after the opposition criticized United We Can for failing to publicly condemn the violent protests.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, a member of the center-left Socialist Party, also criticized a United We Can spokesperson who expressed support for what she called “anti-fascist protesters fighting for freedom of expression.”

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