The arrest of Catalonian musician Pablo Hasél has sparked protests over free speech and the country’s penal code.
Hasél was arrested on Tuesday by anti-riot police following a 24-hour standoff in a university, sparking protests across Spain. The Rapper has been given a nine-month sentence for glorifying terrorist acts on his social media accounts and rap lyrics insulting former Spanish King Juan Carlos I. Hasél has also previously received a suspended sentence for lyrics calling for the death of several politicians.
In the wake of his arrest, protests have occurred nightly across Spain, primarily concentrated in Barcelona and Madrid, to oppose the laws used for the arrest. Although protests have remained primarily peaceful, a small fringe group composed of mainly young people have been filmed throwing rocks and bottles at police and looting shops in Barcelona. Police have also reported at least three attacks targeted at police stations. Violence also broke out in Lleida – where Hasél held his standoff, – Tarragona, and Pamplona.
Barcelona’s Mayor, Ada Colau, has asked his city for calm, saying; “Defending the freedom of expression doesn’t justify in any case the destruction of property, frightening our fellow citizens, and hurting businesses already hurt by the crisis (COVID-19).”
According to Madrid officials, 300 national police officers were sent to the capital to assist managing the protests, which ended in peace. Since the start of protests on Tuesday, an estimated 80 people have been arrested and a further 100 injured.
Prior to Hasél’s arrest, the Spanish government announced it would change the laws and remove prison sentences from the punishment of crimes involving freedom of speech, although it has not appeased the protestors.