Police arrest rapper holed up in Catalan university to avoid jail for tweets

Police arrest rapper holed up in Catalan university to avoid jail for tweets
Photos: AFP
Spanish police on Tuesday arrested a rapper who barricaded himself inside a university after he was controversially sentenced to nine months in jail over a string of tweets, television images showed.

Pablo Hasel had been given until Friday night to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence after being convicted for glorifying terrorism, slander and libel against the crown and state institutions.   

At issue was a series of tweets attacking the monarchy and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants, with his case sparking protests in Madrid and Barcelona.

But Hasel on Monday barricaded himself inside the University of Lleida, in the northeastern Catalonia region, with dozens of supporters to avoid arrest.   

Spanish television showed images of him being escorted out by police at the university on Tuesday.

“They will never make us give in, despite the repression,” Hasel said, his fist raised.

 A Catalan police spokesman told AFP that officers entered the university early Tuesday “to enforce the judicial ruling” on his arrest.   

They began by removing his supporters one by one despite barricades that had been set up to block police.

Hundreds of artists have signed a petition demanding Hasel's release, including film director Pedro Almodovar, Hollywood actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.   

Hasel said on Twitter Monday: “I'm locked inside the University of Lleida with quite a few supporters so they'll have to break in if they want to arrest me and put me in prison.”

 

Last week, Spain's government pledged to reduce the penalty for “crimes of expression” such as the glorification of terrorism, hate speech, insults to the crown and offences against religious sensibilities, in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual activities.   

The case echoes that of another rapper called Valtonyc who fled to Belgium in 2018 after being convicted of similar crimes.   

Spain is trying to have him extradited but Belgium has refused on grounds that his offences are not a crime under Belgian law.   

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