By Renato Brito and Hernan Munoz | Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain Protests over the imprisonment of a rapper convicted of insulting the Spanish monarchy and glorifying terrorist violence were marred by riots for the third night in a row on Thursday.
The plight of Pablo Hasl, who began this week serving a nine-month sentence in a northeastern prison, has sparked a heated debate over the limits of free speech in Spain and a political storm over the use of violence by supporters of rapper and Police.
The ruling coalition’s junior partner, the far-left United We Can (Unidas Podemos) party, on Thursday filed a “total apology” request for Hasl and other rapper Valtnyc, who fled to Belgium in 2018 to avoid trial on charges of “Glorification” of terrorism.
But potentially deepening the tension, court authorities in Catalonia’s northeastern region announced that Hasl lost one last appeal and is looking at an additional 2 1/2 years in prison for obstruction of justice and assault in 2017. The sentence could be appealed again before the Supreme Court of the country.
Like the previous two nights, the protests began on Thursday with large rallies in some cities that were, at first, largely peaceful.
In Catalonia’s regional capital, Barcelona, hundreds sang songs, raped and shouted “Pablo Hasl, freedom!” and “Spanish media, manipulative!” in a central square before dozens broke up the main group to set up a garbage container barricade and a construction sketch that blocked a major city artery, throwing stones, bottles and other items at protest police.
There were moments of tension as the flames threatened to spread to nearby buildings before firefighters arrived.
In the eastern coastal city of Valencia, police used batons to disperse protesters and arrested at least eight people, according to the Spanish government’s regional delegation.
Nearly 80 people have been arrested and more than 100 injured since Hasl was taken from a university where he had sought refuge after refusing to volunteer in prison.
The facades of the headquarters of several political parties have been graffiti, a police station in the city of Vic was hit and protesters severely damaged the fronts of shops and bank offices in several cities, including the capital, Madrid.
Catalan regional police have also launched an internal investigation to determine if one of their foam bullets hit a young man who lost an eye in the protests.
The rapper and his supporters say Hasl’s nine-month sentence for writing a song critical of former King Juan Carlos I and for dozens of tweets that judges said glorified some of Spain’s shattered terrorist groups violates free speech rights.
In addition to this issue, the rapper has previously faced other charges or waited for assault trials, praising armed extremist groups, entering private premises and insulting the monarchy.
His legal situation has attracted considerable public attention because it comes after a number of other artists and social media personalities were sued for violating Spain’s 2015 Law on Public Safety, which was passed by a previous government led by conservatives and criticized by human rights organizations.
One of them was Valtnyc, who has so far avoided extradition from Belgium.
United We Can parliamentary spokesman Jaume Asens said Thursday that the party had taken the first step in apologizing to the “urgent” and “total” apologies of both rappers. The pardons are a bureaucratic process and need final approval from the Spanish government, which is currently in the hands of a left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Snchez and Assen’s party.
And although both sides have agreed to change the penal code to eliminate prison terms for offenses involving freedom of speech, the protests have also opened the last split in the shaky partnership after the opposition ousted United We Can for not publicly condemning the protests. violent.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, a member of the center-left Socialist Party, also criticized a United We Can spokesman who expressed support for what he called “anti-fascist protesters fighting for freedom of expression”.
Associated Press reporters Ciarn Giles and Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.
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