Belgian court strikes down country's slander to monarchy law due to Valtònyc extradition case

Judges say 1847 law violates constitutional right to freedom of expression and ECHR

Mallorcan rapper Valtònyc performing in Brussels (by Blanca Blay)
Mallorcan rapper Valtònyc performing in Brussels (by Blanca Blay) / ACN

ACN | Brussels

October 28, 2021 02:55 PM

The Belgian Constitutional Court struck down the country's law against slander to the monarchy due to Spain's request to extradite Valtònyc, a Catalan-language rapper.

According to the court, the 1847 law, which allows for up to three-year sentences for insulting the royal family, violates the right to freedom of expression as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Valtònyc celebrated the ruling in Tweet in which he said his case had served the "collective good." "We have won and Belgium has removed lèse majesté from the criminal code," he added. 

Sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for glorifying terrorism, threats, and insulting the monarchy, Valtònyc (whose real name is Josep Miquel Arenas) left his home in Mallorca in May 2018 and traveled to Belgium, pledging he "would not make it easy" for Spanish authorities to incarcerate him.

The Ghent Appellate Court, which is handling Spain's extradition request, asked the Belgian Constitutional Court over a year ago if Valtònyc's case was covered by freedom of expression. 

Spain has been trying to extradite the rapper for over three years.

The country's first extradition request was rejected by a district court in September 2018, after which the Ghent Appellate Court asked the Court of Justice of the European Union if Valtònyc could be extradited for glorifying terrorism - they responded that he could not. 

The court in Ghent must now determine whether Belgium has equivalent laws regarding slander to the monarchy and issuing threats in order to accept the European Arrest Warrant put in motion by Spain and is expected to rule on the matter on November 23, although this can still be appealed.