Spain: Rapper Faces Nine-Month Jail Sentence for Criticizing Monarchy and Police; Protests Held across the Country

Photo Credit: ENRIC FONTCUBERTA (EFE) | EPV

By Serran Soledad

On Tuesday, Spanish rapper and political activist Pablo Hasél was arrested by Catalan police forces for “glorifying terrorism,” after disparaging the Spanish monarchy and police over Twitter and in his lyrics.

Attempting to evade the nine-month jail sentence, Hasél along with dozens of his supporters barricaded themselves inside the Lérida (Lleida in Catalan) University, 90 miles west of Barcelona. Supporters pelted and sprayed police with fire extinguishers before Hasél was eventually arrested.

As he was being put into a police vehicle, Hasél said, “They will never make us bend, despite all the repression,” while raising his fist.

The arrest of the 33-year-old rapper sparked multiple days of protest across the country, with thousands marching to demand his release. Many have faced violent repression in response. Images of the most combative protests in Barcelona show protesters encircling the police and lighting trash bins ablaze. As police fired rubber bullets into the crowd of protesters, one woman was hit in the face and consequently lost her eye.

Footage of protests in Madrid also surfaced showing police beating trapped protesters with batons.

Public support for Hasél is growing, with “Free Pablo” murals and solidarity art sprouting up across the country. Two hundred artists, including prominent film director Pedro Almodovar and Hollywood actor Javier Bardem, signed a petition condemning the arrest.

The Spanish government’s main component, the revisionist Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) have faced backlash and criticism in response to the call for Hasél’s arrest. The protests have forced them to introduce a new reform last week stating “verbal excesses committed in the framework of artistic, cultural or intellectual events” would no longer be punishable by law. Hasél’s sentence has yet to be reduced.

This isn’t the first time the rapper has faced state repression, as he was found guilty of the same charges in 2014, with his case being suspended in the condition he not reoffend. Hasél was also previously arrested for expressing support for Victoria Gomez, a jailed member of the banned group GRAPO. Though Hasel is the most high-profile individual to date going to prison on such charges, other artists have faced the same charge of “glorifying terrorism” in recent years, including rapper Valtonyc who promised bullets for right-wing politicians and a noose for the King of Spain.

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