Amid new episodes of disagreement between the parties that make up the left-wing coalition he chairs, the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, broke the silence of the last few days and condemned this Friday (19) the violence of the demonstrations are being extended in several cities across the country to demand the release of rapper Pablo Hasél, arrested earlier this week.
“In a full democracy like Spain, violence is unacceptable,” Sánchez said at an event in Mérida. According to the Prime Minister, democratic regimes have an obligation to protect freedom of expression, “even against the most infamous and absurd thoughts, but there is no cause, place or situation that justifies the appeal. to violence “.
Since the start of the protests last Tuesday (16), Sánchez had not yet commented publicly on the acts, which provoked an exchange of beards between members of the government, sparked by the opposition parties.
Members of Vox and the Popular Party (PP), both on the right, demanded that Sánchez dismiss one of his deputies, Pablo Iglesias, whose party has expressed support for the protests and has not condemned the acts of violence.
Spain is currently governed by a left alliance formed by the Pode, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE, acronym for Sánchez) and a few small associations.
Thus, if the PP’s request were accepted, it would lead to the collapse of the current government, because without the coalition, the coalition would lose its majority in Parliament. The prime minister has not spoken publicly about Iglesias’ conduct, but said his government “will face all forms of violence”.
Although minor, the protests were repeated Thursday evening (18), and there were tensions with the police, who since Tuesday have arrested a hundred people during the acts.
In Barcelona, around 500 people demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry and marched through the streets. The headquarters of the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya was the target of graffiti and windows were smashed by demonstrators.
Some groups burned down garbage cans and other pieces of street furniture to form barricades and prevent the police from passing by throwing eggs, pieces of wood and bottles at the officers. Residents poured water through the windows to help put out the fire.
In Valencia, the police again fired foam bullets (similar to rubber bullets) to disperse the protests. The use of this type of ammunition has been disputed, notably after a 19-year-old girl lost sight of one eye when she was hit by a gunshot during a demonstration in Madrid on Wednesday evening (17 ).
In Tarragona, a little over a hundred people also gathered to demand the release of Hasel. The group blocked avenues and a highway, but there were no serious clashes with the police. A young man was injured after he jumped on a moving local forces vehicle and fell, hitting his head on the ground.
On Thursday, the Spanish court ratified a new sentence of two and a half years in prison against the rapper. According to the facts recounted in the trial, the rapper published a tweet in October 2017 with a photo of the witness in a trial against two municipal police officers, guaranteeing that they had “bought” him and therefore acquitted him.
Two days later Hasel scolded the witness in a bar, tried to kick him and shouted, “I’m going to kill you, motherfucker, I’m going to get you.” His defense can still appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court, but the decision joins the one that sparked protests in the country.
Hasél was convicted in 2018 under the Citizen Security Act, which places restrictions on free speech and has become known locally as the “gag law”.
The reason for his conviction is a set of 64 Twitter posts between 2014 and 2016 and one of his songs released on YouTube. Among other things, he compares Spanish judges and police to the Nazis, classifies King Emeritus Juan Carlos as a “mafia boss” and calls the monarchy “shitty mercenaries.”
According to the law, Hasél’s publications and music can be characterized as “glorification of terrorism” by references to ETA (the former Basque separatist paramilitary group dissolved in 2018) and incitement to violence by critics of police and police. the monarchy.
Justice gave a deadline until last Friday (12) for the rapper to surrender voluntarily. Instead, Hasél joined a group of supporters and took refuge in the building of the University of Lleida, a town in the Catalonia region, on Monday (15). The next morning, however, dozens of police broke into the institution’s building to arrest him.
“The victory will be ours. There will be no forgetting or forgiveness,” he shouted, his fist raised, surrounded by police shortly before being taken to prison. In retrospect, the sentence seemed like a harbinger of actions to follow. Hours later, thousands of people launched a wave of protests calling for the release of the rapper and condemning the application of the “gag law”.
More than 200 artists, including filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and actor Javier Bardem, have signed a petition opposing the rapper’s arrest. The petition compares Spain to countries like Turkey and Morocco, where artists and government opponents live at imminent risk of detention.
In response to the rapper’s case, spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said last week that the government was prepared to “provide a more secure framework for free speech” through reform of the law, still in its infancy.
In a statement, the Sánchez government said the reform would introduce lighter sentences instead of imprisonment. In addition, only actions which “clearly involve the creation of a risk to public order or the cause of a certain type of violent behavior” will be targeted.
In this sense, the Prime Minister has also received criticism from Hasél. According to the rapper, the government was doing nothing to prevent his arrest. “With false claims like so many false promises, they want to extinguish solidarity,” he tweeted.
The “gag law” was enacted in 2015 under the government of the conservative PP Mariano Rajoy. The stated objective was to prohibit the glorification of violence by armed groups like ETA and also to curb insults against religions or the monarchy.
Since then, however, the law has been enforced very restrictively, imposing criminal penalties on legitimate critics of the state.
Despite being sentenced to nine months in prison, Hasél could see his sentence extended to more than two years as the sentence includes a fine which the rapper refused to pay – as have other Spaniards charged under the ” gag law ”.