‘Our incarceration must come at a cost,’ say rappers
Hip Hop artists convicted by Spanish courts claim that their prosecution is an attack on freedom of speech
Pablo Hasél, Valtònyc and Elgio, three Hip Hop artists sentenced to prison by Spanish courts, are coming together to denounce what they deem as an attack on freedom of speech. “Our incarceration can’t come at no cost for the State,” they said at a joint press conference in the Catalan town of Sabadell on Saturday.
The rappers called on people to take to the streets in order to defend their rights. “Our freedom, as well as yours, depends on whether it’s more costly for them to have us in prison than free,” said Hasél, a Catalan rapper.
Last week, Spain’s National Court sentenced Hasél to two years in prison for glorifying terrorism and defaming the crown and state institutions in his lyrics and in Twitter messages. The court also fined him 24,300 euros. The same court sentenced Alex Nicolaev (Elgio) and his bandmates in ‘La Insurgencia’ to two years in jail for similar offenses. Josep Miquel Arenas Beltrán, the Mallorcan rapper known as Valtònyc, was sentenced by the Supreme Court to three years and a half in prison.
“We might go to prison, but you will live under fear forever”
Alex Nicolaev (Elgio) · Hip Hop artist sentenced to jail
“They’re attacking us because we’re weak and it’s a way to impose self-censorship on other artists,” said Valtònyc. Hasél considered their prosecution to be a “terror strategy by the State, which uses us as whipping boys.” Elgio stressed that “we might go to prison, but you will live under fear forever.”
The backlash against Hip Hop artists come amid a series of controversial court decisions in Spain. There are currently four Catalan leaders in jail and two dozen more under investigation for their role in the push for independence. Amnesty International deems the pre-trial detention of pro-independence leaders as “excessive,” and warns that “it sends a very scary message.”
Two weeks ago, an exhibit featuring Catalan leaders as “political prisoners” was removed from Madrid’s International Contemporary Art Festival (ARCO). Organizers stressed their “profound respect for the freedom of expression,” but said that the controversy surrounding the exhibit undermined the image of the festival.