King Felipe of Spain has made his first public appearance since violent protests erupted in Madrid and Barcelona in support of a rapper sent to prison for attacking the Spanish Monarchy.
Felipe was well away from crowds during his engagement which took place less than 24 hours after thousands of people took to the streets across Spain to call for the release of Pablo Husel who is now serving a jail term for songs and messages which glorified terrorism and criticised the Spanish Crown.
The King of Spain headed to the Retamares Base just outside Madrid for a visit to the Joint Command of Cyberspace. In full military uniform, King Felipe saluted as he arrived at the base and oversaw a small parade of troops before heading inside for the meeting.
The visit was focused on the work that goes into ensuring the freedom of action of the Spanish Armed Forces in the field of cyberspace. King Felipe was given an overview of the planning, co-ordination and projects involved in that.
The engagement, in the royal diary for several days before the protests, took place well away from any possible crowds gathering. In coming days, he is due in Aragon for a business summit. There has been no comment from the Royal Household on the protests which have spread across the country.
Pablo Hasel is a rapper with a track record of contentious material. He has been convicted several times over messages showing support for terrorist organisations and for criticising Spain’s Monarchy. He was asked to turn himself in to serve a jail sentence but instead barricaded himself inside the university of his home town of Lleida in Catalonia where he was arrested following a two hour police operation on February 16th.
Immediately afterwards, protests began in Catalonia with a large demonstration turning violent in Barcelona that evening. On February 17th 2021, further protests broke out across Spain. In Madrid, fourteen people were detained after the demonstrations became violent with missiles being thrown. In Barcelona, there were at least thirty five arrests as protesters formed barricades and set fire to them.
There has been increased debate around laws governing speech crimes recently with the government saying it would look at reducing sentences for such offences.