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Valtonyc said he was being made “a political prisoner,” an assertion not easily refuted given Spain’s history with fascist dictators.

It’s hard everywhere to be a politically outspoken rapper. But in Spain, a growing fanbase might just cost you your freedom.

Ask the rapper Josep Miquel Arenas, known as Valtonyc, who saw his sentence of three and a half years in prison confirmed last year by the Spanish Supreme Court, on charges of insulting the monarchy and condoning terrorism in lyrics that include imagery of violence against authorities.

His lyrics were directly tied to “justifying terrorism, slander, and grievous injury to the Crown, and threats against Jorge Campos, President of Actúa Baleares”

After the conviction Valtonyc announced he would take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. In an interview on TV3, Valtonyc explained that he would ask the court for justice, as he “expects nothing” from Spanish justice.

  • On 23 May 2018, the day before he was to enter prison, it was reported that Valtonyc had fled to Belgium to avoid arrest. An international arrest warrant was issued and Spanish social media exploded over the direct confrontation with freedom of speech in Spain.
  • On 5 July, he reported to the police in the Belgian city of Ghent, following a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Spanish authorities to have him extradited to Spain. He was heard by an examining judge of the tribunal of first instance of Ghent, who decided there was no reason to assume he would try to flee from Belgium.

“Art has to be provocative… for there to be social transformation,” says Valtonyc

Among the lyrics deemed criminal by the court were lines like: “Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country” and “the king has a rendezvous at the village square, with a noose around his neck”. The reference to the Basque Country hinted at violence by ETA, the separatist group that for decades staged scores of attacks across Spain that left hundreds of officials and civilians dead.

Several people have faced charges and jail terms in Spain in recent years because of song lyrics and tweets, particularly over glorifying terrorism – and Belgium appears to be a safe place for those fleeing political prosecution. The Spanish court has also issued a new arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia and one of the central figures in the independence movement, who is also now living in self-imposed exile Belgium.

“There is no violence in the songs; art has to be provocative to denounce the problems and for there to be social transformation.”

Spain has their own September 11th: The Origins of the Conflict in Catalan

  • The Catalan National day is known as La Diada and is celebrated on September 11th every year to commemorate the loss of Catalonia’s laws and institutions after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714.
  • In October of 2017, a constitutional crisis was provoked in Spain when separatists went ahead with the independence referendum despite the vote being outlawed by the Spanish government and the Constitutional Court.
  • An overwhelming majority of Catalans voted for independence although turnout was low.
  • Spain’s national government arrested 14 Catalan separatist leaders in an attempt to block the ‘illegal’ referendum for Catalan’s independence.

On October 14, 2019, Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced and jailed nine of them to between 9 and 13 years, stemming from their involvement in the failed independence bid. They were charged with sedition and some were convicted for the misuse of public funds as well. Three additional prominent figures were charged with disobedience but were not jailed.

Dramatic street battles between protesters and police have taken place, with barricades and cars set on fire and petrol bombs.

Large scale demonstrations called “Marches for Freedom” are scheduled to take place in Catalonia over the next few days. The marches will begin in different cities across the region, converging in Barcelona, the region’s capital on Friday.

Stay tuned.

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