Dozens of Spanish police stormed a university on Tuesday and arrested a rapper who had barricaded himself inside after being given a jail sentence on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs.
Pablo Hasel missed a deadline last Friday to give himself up to police to serve a nine-month jail term handed down in 2018. The sentence caused uproar in Spain and led the government to announce it would make free speech laws less restrictive.
After Hasel was arrested, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told reporters jailing people over matters of freedom of speech should not happen in a democracy like Spain.
The rapper took refuge in Lleida university in northeastern Spain with a group of supporters on Monday. They clashed briefly with police on Tuesday morning, throwing chairs and emptying fire extinguishers before officers carrying guns and wearing protective headgear apprehended Hasel.
Known for his radical leftist views, Hasel was convicted over lyrics and tweets that included references to Basque separatist paramilitary group ETA, compared Spanish judges to Nazis and called former king Juan Carlos a mafia boss.
“Victory will be ours … There will be no forgetting and no forgiving,” he shouted, fist raised, as he was surrounded by police and taken to jail, having several hours earlier retweeted the lyrics he was convicted for.
“Tomorrow it could be you,” he added in a message to his 125,000 followers.
More than 200 artists, including film director Pedro Almodovar, actor Javier Bardem and singer Joan Manuel Serrat, signed a petition against Hasel’s jail sentence.
Spain’s leftist government said last week in response to the case that it would reform the “gag law” enacted in 2015 by a previous administration to prevent the glorification of banned armed groups such as ETA. It also bans insults against religion or the monarchy.
The government said it would introduce milder penalties, and target only actions that posed a risk to public order or might provoke violence. It would also uphold tolerance for artistic, cultural and intellectual forms of expression.
ETA announced its dissolution in 2018, after a four-decade campaign of violence that ended in 2010.