On Sunday 7th February, Spanish police are due to arrest rapper Pablo Hasél. On 28th January, the Audiencia Nacional (National Court) gave him ten days to voluntarily enter prison, but he has already made it clear that he will not turn himself in. At a press conference on 1st February, Hasél complained that the court had only notified his lawyer, stressed the importance of the mobilisations and reminded that “you don’t have to agree with everything I say to see that this is a serious attack on freedom of expression”.
His defence had appealed to the Supreme Court against a ruling by the Audiencia Nacional on 2nd March 2018, which sentenced him to eight months in prison for insulting the crown and state institutions and for glorifying terrorism. The offences against him were taken from 64 of the singer’s messages published on Twitter and the song “Juan Carlos el Bobón”. The high court confirmed the sentence on 8th June, with two dissenting votes calling for his acquittal. “Paradoxically”, in the words of Hasél’s lawyer, Diego Herchhoren, that same day the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation into the origin of the former King’s fortune. The rapper from Lleida (Catalonia) had already been sentenced in 2015 to two years in prison for glorifying terrorism in two of his songs titled “Freedom to political prisoners” and “Death to the Bourbons”, among others. The sentence was not carried out because he did not have a criminal record, which is no longer the case.
Hasél explained that he decided to stay in Catalonia, although he considered the option of exile, which he finds “very respectable”: “I made a political analysis, not a personal one, and I believed that if what the state is looking for is not only to scare the rest but also to try to silence the message, my imprisonment will achieve the opposite. I think that if I had left, as I have seen with Valtonyc (another antifascist rapper sentenced to three-an-a-half years in prison on similar charges, who left the country for Belgium in 2018) it wouldn’t have helped so much”. He also wanted to make it clear that he does not intend to ask for a pardon: “I have absolutely no reason to regret anything”.
For the rapper, the court has taken advantage of the demobilisation in the middle of the pandemic “to try to imprison me with the least possible response”. This is why he stresses the importance of street mobilisation. Rallies have been called throughout Spain for the next few days and the platform in support of Pablo Hasél has called a public meeting to keep organising a solidarity campaign.
According to a report by Freemuse, a UN consulting organisation: ¨The 2015 Law on the Protection of public security (commonly referred to as the gag law) and the reformed Criminal Code are unduly restricting expression in the name of national security. Scores of musicians have been unfairly prosecuted on the grounds of glorification of terrorism and/or insulting the crown, while the gag law has been used against journalists for their reporting on police actions during protests, resulting in increased self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.¨