On the 16th of February, the rap singer Pablo Hasél was arrested by the police in Lleida, Catalonia. He locked himself in the University of that city with a lot of people that were giving him their support. The police entered nevertheless, and he was detained and sent to prison.
The Justice has condemned him for a song against the Spanish Monarchy and 64 tweets he published between the years of 2014 and 2016. In 2018, Hasél was given a two-year jail sentence and a fine of almost €30,000 after Spain’s highest criminal court ruled that his lyrics and comments went beyond the limits of free speech, and were considered expressions of “hatred and attacks on honour”. Hasél had referred to the former Spanish king Juan Carlos as a “drunken tyrant”, and the Court states that they represent ‘a direct and personal attack to the Royal House and their members in a ruthless mode’. Insulting the Monarchy is considered a crime in Spain. The court also considered that Hasél had praised terrorist groups, and noted that he had called the national police “murderers”. Some parties tried to depenalize the crime of offenses to the Monarchy some months ago on a proposal by Esquerra Republicana, together with bringing down the ‘Gag Law’, that prosecutes freedom of speech, with no success due to the contrary vote from PSOE. Now the coalition of Izquierda Unida and Podemos is asking for offenses to the Monarchy to be depenilized at the Spanish Congress, and are also asking for Pablo Hasél to be absolved.
This attack on freedom of expression is not the first, since currently Spain has 14 artists imprisoned and one in exile: Valtonyc, who is in Brussels, knowing that if he ever returns, prison awaits for him. His crime was, as well, singing against the Monarchy.
This happens while neonazis were allowed to march on the streets of Madrid on February 13th, where proclamations commemorating the Blue Division, a unit of volunteers from Francoist Spain that was sent to Germany to support the nazis. During the discourse, statements like “jews are the enemy” were heard. This is, again, proof that the State operates in a biased way, allowing far right demonstrations while incarcerating singers for their opinions.
It is particularly ironic that certain people were horrified when vicepresident Pablo Iglesias, from Unidas Podemos, declared that there are irregularities in Spanish democracy, when a man is going to jail for sending tweets and for criticising the monarchy in his songs, while neonazis are allowed to march on the streets and express fascist and antisemitic ideas out loud.
Freedom of speech is a right that must be guaranteed, and attacks on it cannot be tolerated, especially when they come from the same State that supposedly protects it. Currently, we see how fascism is evermore permitted in Spain, and how it is represented by a party, VOX, who are currently growing in the country. This is a clear attack on democracy and a problem that we must fight against without hesitation.