Twelve rappers from the group La Insurgencia were sentenced to two years and a day of jail each for “supporting terrorism” in their lyrics. The court also ordered them to pay fines of 4,500 Euro each, and banned them from running for public office for nine years. The trial came a year after the police summoned the group to court following their street performance.
Spain’s Public Prosecutor claimed La Insurgencia “systematically extols” the clandestine maoist organisation First of October Anti- Fascist Resistance Groups (Grupos de Resistencia Antifascista Primero de Octubre, GRAPO) and “maintains a subversive tone against the constitutional order”. During the trial, the prosecutor argued that the songs of La Insurgencia “advocate a violent method to combat a system that [the accused] consider unfair.” Comparing them to jihadists, the prosecutor stated that “the defendants have a religion that is the labour union which says the exploitation of the oppressed deserves an armed struggle.”
The rappers argued during the trial that their lyrics were metaphors and thoughts, but the court decided that “when they mention in their lyrics one or another organization, they are aware of its terrorist connotation.” The defendants said that the “highly aggressive” images which appeared in their YouTube videos were not theirs, although the court considered that they can not be separated from the activity of glorifying terrorism because rappers “knew about them and they had no intention of withdrawing them”.
Saul Zaitsev from La Insurgencia has called the charges “an absurdity of immense disproportion”, saying his music is not a crime. “I don’t think anyone has been encouraged to commit crimes after listening to me”, he added. Another group member, Ivan Leszno, said: “Our music is written by young people who use hip-hop to express the rage of a generation who has been robbed of their future. They just want us to stop singing or start self-censorship.”
The group is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court, however, that can take years and in a meantime twelve young people, aged between 18 and 27, face prison because the Spanish government doesn’t approve of their lyrics.
GRAPO: a small maoist group active mostly in 1970’s and 1980’s, and responsible for assassinations of 84 people by means of bombings and shootings, and also known for kidnappings for both political reasons and extortion, seems like not the best choice of historical radical role models for young Spanish rappers. However, by sending a dozen of young people to prison for merely performing a song, Spanish state is on the mission to suppress freedom of expression. It seems to be a common tactic: in February, Spanish court sentenced Josep Miquel Arenas, another rapper known as Valtonyc, to three and a half years imprisonment for “insulting the crown and threats” in one of his songs in which he criticized Spanish king Juan Carlos. In 2014, it inflicted a one-year suspended sentence on a 21-year-old woman for praising GRAPO on her Twitter account. Clearly, Spanish authorities do not know much about hip- hop aesthetics, or right to freedom of expression for that matter.
Pic: La Insurgencia