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Protests in Barcelona
The protests, which had begun peacefully on Wednesday, soon turned violentImage: Nacho Doce/REUTERS
Freedom of SpeechEurope

Spain sees fourth night of riots over imprisonment of rapper

February 20, 2021

Spain has witnessed another night of clashes after a rapper was jailed for glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his songs. The case has sparked a debate over free speech in the country.


Spain saw a fourth night of violent street protests on Friday, as people agitated over the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel

Police in Barcelona and some parts of northeastern Catalonia said officers had been pelted with bottles, stones, fireworks and paint. The country's capital Madrid also saw some clashes.

Protests turned violent

"Democracy protects freedom of speech, including the expression of the most awful, absurd thoughts, but democracy never ever protects violence," said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at an event.

The protests, which had begun peacefully on Wednesday, soon turned violent. Police had arrested around 80 people until Friday. More than a hundred were injured during the demonstrations.

A couple of banks and stores in Barcelona were also attacked, and protesters smashed windows of three other banks in the city of Girona. 

Police have fired tear gas and foam bullets to contain the crowds. Some demonstrators set fire to trash containers and motorcycles, and looted stores. 

The arrest of Pablo Hasel

Hasel was arrested for his rap lyrics and tweets from a few years ago, which allegedly glorified terrorism and insulted Spanish royalty. The 33-year-old was given a prison sentence for nine months, which sparked debate and protests over freedom of speech across the country. 

At the heart of the issue was a string of tweets calling former king Juan Carlos I a mafia boss and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants.

The rapper had earlier barricaded himself inside the University of Lleida. The 24-hour standoff ended as the police stormed into the university and arrested him.

Several artists and celebrities have spoken out in support of Hasel. Rights organization Amnesty International called for a change in anti-terrorism and gagging laws in Spain, saying they stifled citizens' rights to express dissent and disapproval. 

tg/sri (AP, Reuters)

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