A rapper’s conviction for praising terrorism and insulting the Spanish royal family has sparked riots in Barcelona. Pablo Hassel was also punished for accusing the police of torture and the crown of corruption. However, the authorities are adamant – he calls for violence.
Since Pablo Hassel’s imprisonment last Tuesday, Spain has become a scene of mass demonstrations every night, escalating into fierce fighting between police and protesters.
The problem for the justice system is more than 60 tweets of the rapper, published between 2014 and 2016, for which he received a 9-month effective sentence on charges of terrorism. He was also fined 25,000 euros for insulting, slandering and inciting.
“Given the fine, which I will not pay as a sign of disobedience against an unfair decision, this means more months in prison. I don’t know if they will make me serve the sentence of two years for making songs. “I also have other unresolved cases in which I could face up to 20 years in prison.”
In his Twitter account and in his songs, Hassel praised Basque separatists from ETA, compared Spanish judges to Nazis and called former Spanish King Juan Carlos a mafia boss. The rapper also accused the police of torturing and killing protesters and migrants.
“I am trying to make what is happening more visible, to make more noise, and above all I am trying to raise awareness that this is a serious attack on our freedoms, not just mine. A collective response to aggression against the majority is needed. The answer must be solidarity and protest, because only then will we be able to stop this barbarism, “said the rapper.
The answer is not late. The protests have been going on for a week now, and a number of celebrities have sided with Hassel, criticizing both his sentence and the freedom of speech laws. A reaction from the socialist government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez followed.
“Democracy defends freedom of speech, including the expression of the most horrible, absurd thoughts, but democracy never defends violence. “Violence is the opposite of democracy, it is a denial of democracy,” said Pedro Sanchez.
However, the prime minister acknowledged that the law on freedom of speech in Spain was unfair and the sentence was not in line with the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights. In recent years, magistrates have repeatedly ruled against Madrid that it cannot punish people for insulting the royal family.
“The legislation is unfair and the court’s interpretation is not in line with international law and the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights,” said Esteban Beltran, Amnesty International’s director for Spain.
Apart from the riots and pogroms in Barcelona, the Spanish authorities have another concern – the rapper is a supporter of Catalonia’s independence, and the last regional elections confirmed the majority of parties that want secession from Spain.
“They are afraid of my songs, not only because they explain reality, but also because they call for change, for organization and for the fight against injustice,” added Pablo Hassel.
Hassel also faces two and a half years in prison for obstructing justice and threatening a witness in 2017 who testified in support of a local police officer.
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