Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél, convicted of tweets, arrested by Spanish police

Become for some a symbol of freedom of expression in Spain, rapper Pablo Hasél, sentenced to prison for tweets attacking the monarchy and the police, was arrested Tuesday morning in order to serve his sentence.

“They will not stop us, they will never make us bow, despite all the repression”, shouted, fist raised, this rapper, escorted by police, according to images of his arrest broadcast by Spanish television. “It’s the fascist state that is arresting me. Death to the fascist state!”, he still proclaimed, looking at the cameras when entering a vehicle of the “Mossos d’Esquadra”, the Catalan regional police.

“We bring him directly to the penitentiary center”, then told AFP a spokesperson for the “Mossos” after the police operation launched at 06:30 am (05:30 GMT) to extract him from the University of Lérida, in Catalonia (northeast of Spain) , where he had been barricaded since Monday with dozens of supporters who wanted to prevent his arrest.

Pablo Hasél – real name Pablo Rivadulla Duró – had until Friday evening to voluntarily go to prison and start serving the nine-month sentence imposed on him by the Spanish courts.

Found guilty of apologizing for terrorism, as well as insults and slanders against the crown and the state, he was convicted for tweets in which he described in particular the Spanish law enforcement agencies as “shit mercenaries”, accused them of torture and murder and also attacked the monarchy.

“They will have to come and kidnap me and that will also serve to portray the state in its true face, that of a fake democracy”, the 32-year-old Catalan rapper told AFP on Friday by phone.

Several sometimes tense demonstrations in support of Pablo Hasél had taken place in recent weeks in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​while more than 200 personalities from the Spanish-speaking cultural world, including director Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardem, had signed a tribune in his favor. .

The signatories affirmed in particular that the conviction of Pablo Hasél constituted a “sword of Damocles” above all artists and accused Spain of acting as “Turkey or Morocco”.

The affair had become a real thorn in the side of the left-wing government of Pedro Sanchez, especially as the Catalan elections approached last Sunday.

The spokesperson of the executive, María Jesús Montero, had thus recognized last week “a lack of proportionality” in the sentence imposed on the rapper.

On the defensive, the government had also promised “a reform” so that the “verbal excesses committed in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual events” no longer fall under criminal law and no longer result in prison sentences.

Partner of the Socialists in the government, the radical left party Podemos strongly denounced Tuesday the arrest of the rapper.

“Everyone who considers themselves progressive and brags about ‘full democratic normality’ (of Spain), should be ashamed. Will they close their eyes? There is no progress if we do not want to recognize the current democratic gaps “, Podemos tweeted.

It was an allusion to highly controversial recent comments by its boss, Pablo Iglesias, who said last week that there was no “a situation of full political and democratic normality in Spain”.

These remarks sparked an outcry from all the right-wing opposition parties, but also a huge unease within the Socialist Party of Pedro Sánchez.

The case of Pablo Hasél recalls that of another Spanish rapper, Valtonyc. The latter had gone into exile in Belgium in May 2018 after confirmation of his sentence in Spain to three and a half years in prison for “apologizing for terrorism” and the Basque separatist group ETA, “insults to the Crown” and “threat” in his songs.

He has since been targeted by a European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish courts. In September 2018, a court in Ghent rejected the execution of the warrant. The proceedings are still pending before a court of appeal.

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