The Spanish Supreme Court has upheld a decision to jail a rapper for three and a half years for a song deemed to have glorified terrorism and insulted the crown, sparking a debate about freedom of expression in the country.
The court rejected arguments on Tuesday by little-known rapper Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, stage name Valtonyc, that his songs were protected by freedom of expression laws, when ratifying a sentence handed down last February.
Among the lyrics deemed criminal were: “Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country,” a reference to violence against police officers in the region by the now-disarmed Basque separatist group ETA.
Valtonyc went on to fantasize about the king having “a rendez-vous at the village square, with a noose around his neck.” In another track Valtonyc threatened to kill a Spanish politician and aristocrat involved in a corruption scandal after forcing her to “see how her son lives among rats.”
The court deemed that the Mallorcan rapper’s lyrics constituted “praise, not of political objectives but of the violent means used by the cited terrorist organizations” and upheld his three and a half-year sentence, Valtonyc confirmed the decision on social media.
LA SENTENCIA DEL SUPREMO YA HA SALIDO. 3 AÑOS Y 6 MESES DE CARCEL POR LAS CANCIONES. TENGO QUE INGRESAR EN PRISIÓN. EN CUANTO TENGA MÁS INFO. DIRÉ COSAS.
— Josep V. 🎗️ (@valtonyc) February 20, 2018
Leftwing figures from Spain rallied to the rapper’s defense and branded his prosecution as an attack on freedom of expression. “Censoring a book because it speaks of corruption, sending a rapper to jail for a song, or taking down a work of art because it’s uncomfortable. The gag laws of the PP (Partido Popular) are incompatible with a fair and democratic country,” Podemos deputy Irene Montero wrote on twitter.
Censurar un libro porque habla de corrupción, enviar a un rapero a la cárcel por una canción o retirar una obra de arte porque incomoda. Las mordazas del PP son incompatibles con un país democrático y justo.
— Irene Montero (@Irene_Montero_) February 21, 2018
Rap singer from Mallorca will go to jail for offending the Spanish Crown with his lyrics. Spain is more and more becoming an authoritarian State.https://t.co/FREDmrKWRc
— Jaume Clotet 🎗 (@jaumeclotet) February 21, 2018
Writers’ group PEN Català also criticised the decision saying that it “proves Spanish Gag Law is a serious attack on freedom of expression”.
In a statement the group also said that it was “also concerned about the ‘chilling effect’ of this law on artistic expression.”