Pablo Hasél is not the most listened to rapper in Spain. But he is now the best known. His arrest last Tuesday for justifying terrorism caused a stir in the country. In reaction, demonstrations in support of the artist are organized every day and some of them have degenerated into violent clashes with the police.
Who is Pablo Hasél?
Born 32 years ago in an affluent area of Lérida (Catalonia), Pablo Rivadulla Duro – his real name – has become a symbol of freedom of expression in Spain. Son of a Catalan entrepreneur, the daily the Vanguardia calls him “the agitator of a good family”. Her mother is the daughter of a famous lawyer from Lleida.
“He has very high self-esteem, he is above good and evil, only helps those who respect his ideas. He believes in the power of absolute truth ”, explain acquaintances of the artist to the Catalan newspaper. Within the confines of the prison where he is imprisoned, he allegedly presented himself as “a political prisoner”.
Pablo Hasél, who claims to be a communist and an anti-fascist, has already been condemned several times for his texts referring to the armed organizations of the extreme left such as the Anti-fascist Resistance Groups of October 1 (Grapo), accused of a thousand d violent actions from 1975 to 2003 in Spain.
Why was he arrested?
Pablo Hasél was found guilty in May 2020 of defending terrorism, as well as insults and slanders against the Crown and the State. He was sentenced to nine months in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros. In a series of tweets dating from 2014 to 2016, he notably called King Juan Carlos I a “mafia”, praised people involved in attacks and accused the police of having killed and tortured migrants and demonstrators. .
“50 police officers injured? If these shitty mercenaries bit their tongues while eating a host, they would say that they are injured, ”he wrote in particular, according to the Spanish press. Or again: “The Civil Guard torturing or shooting immigrants? Democracy. Jokes about fascists? Apology for terrorism. “
In Spain, article 578 of the Penal Code in fact provides for fines, the prohibition to take public employment or prison sentences for people who have “glorified terrorism” or “humiliated victims of terrorism or their relatives”. .
On January 28, the courts gave the rapper ten days to surrender himself to the authorities. “They will have to come and kidnap me and this will also serve to portray the State in its true face, that of a false democracy,” he then told AFP before taking refuge in the University of Lleida, surrounded of several dozen sympathizers. The Catalan regional police came to arrest him on Monday February 15.
“They will not stop us, they will never make us bow, despite all the repression,” he said, his fist raised, under the watchful eye of the cameras. “It’s the fascist state that is stopping me. Death to the fascist state! “, He shouted again when entering a vehicle of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the autonomous police force of Catalonia.
What are the protesters asking for?
The announcement of Pablo Hasél’s sentencing to prison sparked an uproar in Spain. On February 8, nearly 200 artists, including director Pedro Almodovar, actor Javier Bardem, and singer Joan Manuel Serrat, took a stand in his favor in a column entitled “Without freedom of expression, there is no has no democracy ”.
“We have united to show our support for Pablo, to demand his freedom and to demand the removal from the Penal Code of this type of crime which only limits not only freedom of expression, but also ideological and artistic freedom” , declares this manifesto, which compares Spain “to Turkey or Morocco”. Amnesty International also found the sentence “unfair and disproportionate”.
“Pablo Hasél, freedom! Also claim the few hundred, even a few thousand, demonstrators in the rallies that have taken place every day since the arrest of the rapper. But this incarceration is not the only reason for their taking to the streets. “Hasél was the spark, but there’s a lot more to it. We can’t take any more injustices, precariousness, repression and that blew us up, ”a 20-year-old history student told AFP. “We are fighting because we refuse to be a lost generation. “
Precariousness, record youth unemployment rate at the European Union level (40.2%), rents which are soaring, in particular in Madrid and Barcelona… The same arguments come back to the mouths of young demonstrators. And the Covid-19 pandemic darkens the picture a little more.
How widespread are the riots?
After a very politicized mobilization, the rallies in support of the rapper brought in their wake thugs who looted luxury shops, hotels or car dealerships. The streets of Barcelona have been the scene of clashes between young demonstrators and police since Tuesday. A young woman lost one eye, possibly after being shot with a rubber bullet by the police.
Beyond the capital of Catalonia, other towns in the region have been shaken by violence, such as Vic where demonstrators attacked the police station on February 16, injuring eleven officers. In total, around 100 people were arrested, according to local police. Protest actions, also marked by violence, were carried out in other cities of Spain such as Madrid, Valencia (east) and Granada (south).
VIDEO> Spain has been on fire for several nights after the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasél
On the night of Saturday to Sunday, shops were looted and damage was done to iconic buildings in Barcelona, such as the Palace of Music. This degradation aroused great indignation. The cultural entity had indeed signed on February 16 a text in favor of freedom of expression alongside other institutions. The leader of the PP in Catalonia – a liberal-conservative political party, Alejandro Fernández, criticized the damage on Twitter: “Is there a difference with the Taliban who destroy statues and works of art? He blurted out.
“Violence is a complex issue,” admitted a hotel worker currently on short-time working who took part in the Barcelona demonstration on Saturday. “We cannot defend violence. But, on the other hand, it is true that the purely pacifist demonstrations got us nowhere. We have to do a little more, ”he told AFP.
Why does this affair embarrass the State?
Images of the riots forced the regional government to change its mind. “At the beginning, it was clear that it was an act of protest for freedom of expression, but there has been an evolution towards acts of pure vandalism”, estimated Sunday Miquel Sàmper, adviser to the ‘Interior of the Government of Catalonia, during an interview with TV-3. This sentence put an end to a regional policy “close to sympathy with the demonstrations”, notes the most widely read newspaper in the country El País.
The incarceration of Pablo Hasél also reinforced the differences within the government coalition on the subject of freedom of expression. The spokeswoman for the executive, María Jesús Montero, admitted last week “a lack of proportionality” in the sentence imposed on the rapper. On the defensive, the government also pledged reform to amend the penal code so that freedom of expression offenses are not punishable by jail time..
Partner of the Socialists in the government, the radical left party Podemos for its part strongly denounced the arrest of the rapper. “All those who consider themselves progressives and brag about full democratic normality (Editor’s note : from Spain) should be ashamed of themselves. Will they close their eyes? There is no progress if we do not want to recognize the current democratic deficiencies, ”Podemos said on Twitter. It was an allusion to highly controversial comments by its leader and vice-president of government, Pablo Iglesias, who said last week that there was “no full political and democratic normalcy in Spain” .
These remarks sparked an outcry from all the right-wing opposition parties, but also enormous unease within Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr