29.01.2023

Spanish protesters and police clash for second night over jailing of rapper

Violent clashes erupted between Spanish police and protesters, amid rubber bullets and projectiles, in a second night of demonstrations in several cities against the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel.

Police fired rubber bullets and baton-charged protesters, many of whom threw objects at officers and used rubbish containers set on fire as well as overturned motorbikes to block streets in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities. Many shop windows were smashed in the demonstrations.

Hasel barricaded himself in a university building earlier this week to avoid his arrest in a case centring on free speech. After a 24-hour stand-off, police took him away early on Tuesday.

He was taken to prison to serve a nine-month sentence for insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism in a song about former King Juan Carlos I and in 64 tweets several years ago.

Hasel’s legal situation has drawn considerable public attention, with performers, celebrities and politicians demanding a change in the law he was convicted of violating.

Amnesty International said the case was the latest in a string of artists and social media personalities being put on trial for violating Spain’s 2015 Public Security Law, which was enacted by a previous conservative-led government. The law has also been criticised for allegedly curtailing free assembly and to muzzle protests.

Some political parties defended the protesters but others defended the police and claimed the violence was caused by vandals.

Initial reports said 30 people were arrested on Wednesday and some 20 people were injured in the demonstrations.

Eighteen people were arrested on Tuesday after violence broke out in the first protests of the rapper’s arrest, principally in Barcelona and other cities in the north-eastern Catalonia region.

One woman lost an eye after reportedly being hit by a police rubber bullet on Tuesday in Barcelona, officials said. Police said some 55 people, both officers and protesters, were treated for slight injuries.

Spanish National Television cited Barcelona authorities as estimating the damage at €70,000 (£60,000).

Other demonstrations, some violent, took place in other Spanish cities on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In response to protests over the case, Spain’s left-wing coalition government said last week that it planned to change the country’s criminal code to eliminate prison terms for offences involving freedom of expression.

Hasel, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla Duro, has previously faced charges for assault, glorifying terrorism, hate speech, breaking into private premises and insulting the crown.

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