Valtònyc hits out at Spanish president over lack of support
Exiled rapper says Pedro Sánchez's backing has gone, and he hopes his case can become a "precedent" in freedom of expression debate
Valtònyc, the rapper sentenced to more than three years in prison in Spain for certain lyrics in some of his songs, and who is now in Belgium, has criticized Spanish president Pedro Sánchez for no longer supporting him now that he is in government.
"All I know is that when Pedro Sánchez wasn't the president he supported me, and he has not done the same again since he became president," the rapper, whose real name is Josep Miquel Arenas, told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) in an interview.
The singer has been in Belgium since he fled Spain in May to avoid serving three and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of slander and glorifying terrorism in some of his songs. In July, the Spanish authorities began the process to extradite him, which is ongoing.
"I want my case to become a precedent"
The rapper hopes his case will focus attention on the issue of freedom of expression: "I want my case to become a precedent so that no rapper will again be deprived of their freedom or be prevented from seeing their family for the simple fact of expressing themselves," he said.
For Valtònyc, choosing exile in Belgium "has been worth it" and he is even considering asking for political asylum should the legal route prove fruitless. A Belgian court released the rapper on conditional bail while it looks into Spain's extradition request.
Referring to his decision to flee Spain, Valtònyc said coming to Belgium has "opened the eyes" of many people to his situation: "If I had not chosen to go into exile, my case would not be so well known," he said.
In fact the singer insists that he is not in Belgium for "personal" reasons alone: "It's clear that my freedom is very important and is what comes first, but I am also here for other rappers, and sometimes the personal comes second to the collective," he said.
"We have to stick together"
Valtònyc has the same defense lawyer as exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, and in fact the rapper says he would not have come to the country if the former president and four of his ministers had not done so first, following the imposition of direct rule in Catalonia.
"We are united by the feeling that we've been forced from our homes and can't go back; we have to support each other, it's something we need," he said about the exiled political leaders, adding: "We have to stick together and fight fascism, as that is what's important."
"I have no intention of changing the way I think"
Despite Valtònyc's situation being a consequence of his songs, he says he won't give up his musical career or his political convictions. "I am here because of my ideology and because I'm a political activist, but for now I have no intention of changing the way I think," he said.
The court in Ghent handling his case will rule on his extradition on September 17, and with still so much uncertainty the rapper admits he does not know where he might be in a year's time, except behind the mic: "My idea is to continue what I'm doing, which is condemning fascism and using music as a tool for social transformation," he says.