Culture 16/02/2021

The 10 keys to understanding the Pablo Hasél case

He is the first musician in Spain to be imprisoned for the lyrics of his songs

3 min
Pablo Hasél at the University of Lleida, minutes before his arrest

BarcelonaPablo Hasél entered prison this Tuesday, after being arrested by the Catalan police at the University of Lleida. His case has been controversial for months because it sets a precedent in the Spanish state: Hasél is the first musician imprisoned for the lyrics of his songs since the end of the dictatorship.

1. What was he sentenced for?

Pablo Rivadulla, known artistically as Pablo Hasél, was sentenced in 2018 by the Spanish National High Court. The court considered the content of 64 tweets and the video of the song "Juan Carlos el Bobón" that Hasél had posted on YouTube as constituting a crime. The messages said things like: "Policemen who with Franco imprisoned and now imprison as judges of the Nazi-onal court" y "Nazi-onal police torturing even in front of the cameras"

2. Why is he going to prison?

The Audiencia Nacional sentenced Hasel to nine months in prison and several financial fines for the crimes of glorification of terrorism, slander and libel against the Crown and against the institutions of the State. The same court found that the rapper's lyrics "seek to glorify terrorist methods" and "incite violence". The Supreme Court confirmed Hasél's conviction in June and at the end of January the High Court ordered his imprisonment

3. How long will he have to be in prison?

Hasél has been sentenced to nine months and one day in prison for glorifying terrorism. But, as he has not paid the fines that the sentence also imposed on him, these penalties will be translated into more days in prison. In total, Hasél will have to be deprived of his liberty for two years, one month and fifteen days.

4. Why is his case so relevant?

Pablo Hasél entering prison marks a precedent. He is the first musician in the Spanish state to go to prison for the lyrics of his songs since the end of the dictatorship. However, he is not the only rapper sentenced to prison for the content of his songs. Valtònyc was sentenced to three years and six months in prison, but the musician went into exile in order to keep his freedom. The twelve rappers of La Insurgencia were sentenced to six months in prison, even though they never had to serve their sentence.

5. Why is he not protected by the right to free speech?

The Supreme Court ruled last year that Hasél's lyrics referring to the king "exceed the right to freedom of expression or opinion" and cross "the line that separates expressions that can hurt or bother". The court argues that the rapper "far exceeds the barrier of the limit of criticism" and that he is the author of "clear and serious attacks on the honour of the royal family". About the tweets, the Supreme Court says that "they appear as a suitable means to arouse violent reactions, undermine confidence in democratic institutions, feed the feeling of contempt and hatred against institutions and denigrate the dignity of people". Jurists and lawyers, however, disagree with these statements and believe that the right to freedom of expression is being restricted abusively.

6. Why does the High Court consider Hasél a reoffender?

Hasél has a previous conviction, from 2014, for glorifying the terrorism of ETA, Grapo, Terra Lliure and Al-Qaeda in his songs. The Audiencia Nacional then imposed a sentence of two years in prison, which was suspended in 2019 for three years, during which time, if he re-offended, he would have to automatically enter prison. In addition, the rapper was convicted in 2017 for resisting arrest and in 2018 for violation of premises.

7. What juridical options does Hasél have to avoid prison?

The rapper's defence has exhausted all alternatives to avoid imprisonment. The last was a plea appeal that was filed last week and alleged "the great social alarm" generated by his conviction. On Monday the High Court overturned it, arguing the following: "With this criminal record it would be absolutely discriminatory with respect to other criminals and also a serious individual exception in the application of the law, totally lacking in justification, ot suspend the execution of the sentence."

8. What about pardon?

Hasél has said on several occasions that he will not ask for a pardon because he does not want to take "any action that has to do with repentance or going backwards". Even so, Unidas Podemos announced on Tuesday that it will register a request for a pardon for Hasél in the Ministry of Justice.

9. Has Hasél's sentence got to do with the "gag law"?

No, it has nothing to do with that. The law gag law is administrative and, therefore, has no prison sentences. Hasél has been convicted of glorifying terrorism and insulting the Crown and the institutions of the State, which are crimes under the Penal Code.

10. And what about the reform of the Penal Code?

After the numerous and various rallies in recent weeks, and the manifesto signed by 200 artists demanding the rapper's freedom, the Spanish Government explained last week that the Ministry of Justice will propose a review of crimes related to "excesses in the exercise of freedom of expression" so that they can never involve prison sentences, but are limited to having "dissuasive penalties". This Monday, Unidas Podemos can has announced that they have started proceedings for a freedom of expression law and a repeal of the crime of insults to the Crown.

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