Infamous day for democracy

2 min
Pablo Hasél at the time of his arrest

Despite the fact that it had already been announced, we still clung on to the possibility that the justice system would find a way to avoid the ordeal of sending a singer to prison, for the first time since the restoration of democracy, because of the lyrics of a song. But it was not so and the Lleida rapper Pablo Hasél was arrested and transferred this Tuesday to the penitentiary centre of Ponente. We recall that justice has considered illegal the lyrics of the song Juan Carlos el Bobón and about sixty tweets for the crimes of insults to the Crown and the institutions of the State and for glorification of terrorism (for his references to ETA and the Grapo). The sentence was to nine months and one day, but Hasél's previous convictions and his refusal to pay the fine have led to a situation that is an infamy and an ignominy for any democrat: that an artist (regardless of the opinion we have about his work and its content) can be imprisoned for expressing critical opinions with the political system.

For some time now, the authoritarian drift of the Spanish justice system, under the protection of an obsolete and anachronistic Penal Code, has been curtailing such basic rights as freedom of expression or, as we saw on 20-S and 1-O, the right to demonstrate. To the point that the European Court of Human Rights has had to remind Spain, on the occasion of the case of the burning of photos of the king, that according to European jurisprudence this right protects criticism of the Crown in any form. Slowly but surely, Spain is becoming an exception in Europe, a place where political and social leaders are imprisoned for organising a referendum, young Basques are accused of terrorism for an incident in a bar with civil guards, and now an anti-capitalist singer. And we say it is a drift because over the last 45 years there have been many lyrics which were much more offensive to the king or critical of the institutions without anything happening. Why is criticism not tolerated now?

The Hasél case has mobilised the world of culture, which has come together in defence of freedom of expression in a way which has not been seen for years. In this sense, it is significant that the Liceu, and also the rest of the main musical institutions in the country, have stood by the rapper. In Madrid, even the PSOE has realised in the last few days that this is a real outrage and has already announced that it wants to introduce changes to the Penal Code. If they do so, it would be good if they made a global reform and eliminated once and for all obsolete crimes, such as insulting the Crown or sedition, which can be dangerous in the hands of a judiciary that is increasingly leaning to the right.

The Hasél case shows that the democratic deficits of the Spanish state do not only affect pro-independence supporters and put at risk the fundamental rights of the entire population of the state. In fact, Òmnium already made a campaign in 2018, with the slogan "Tomorrow it could be you", in which it warned of what was happening. Let's hope that the Spanish government understands that every day Hasél spends in prison is a stain on Spain's image and a disgrace to democracy. And that it acts quickly.