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Why is Pablo Hasel, the Spanish rapper who insulted the monarchy, so controversial?

Hasel protests 2021
RTVE still/ fair use

Spanish police say rapper Pablo Hasél was arrested by Catalan police at Lleida University in north-eastern Spain after a 24-hour standoff, where the rapper had barricaded himself in a building. He was taken to prison to serve a nine-month sentence after being convicted of offending the monarchy and endorsing terrorism in tweets and a song.

Hasél had referred to the former Spanish king Juan Carlos in offensive terms, praised some terrorist groups and accused the Guardia Civil of torturing and murdering migrants.

The Catalonian rapper has previously been convicted of assault and breaking into private property. In addition, in 2018, Hasél was given a two-year jail sentence and a fine of almost 30.000 Euros after Spain’s highest criminal court ruled that his lyrics and comments went beyond the limits of free speech and were instead expressions of “hatred and attacks on honour”. Another Spanish rapper, known as Valtònyc, fled to Belgium in 2018 to avoid a three-and-a-half year jail term after being found guilty of distributing songs that threatened the crown.

Hasel’s arrest has resulted in protests in several cities, resulting in 33 injuries. During the riots on Wednesday, fourteen people were arrested in Madrid and a further 29 in Barcelona. In the Spanish capital, 35 police officers are being treated for injuries at hospital.

The protests come just days after controversy when Spain’s main TV station, RTVE, disciplined journalists involved in a lunchtime news programme which appeared to question the monarchy. While reporting that Princess Leonor is to finish her secondary education in Wales, a strapline reading ‘’Leonor is leaving Spain, like her grandfather’’ was used, a reference to the self imposed exile of King Juan Carlos who went to Abu Dhabi following ongoing allegations of financial impropriety.  Almost immediately, TVE issued an apology and said that those involved had been ”relieved” of their duties.

At the weekend, Catalonia held elections with parties demanding independence for the region winning the most seats. That has led to concerns about a fresh push for secession in the area. Some of the protestors involved in the Hasel demonstrations are also demanding freedom for the Catalan independence leaders who were given prison sentences following the referendum of 2017 which was declared illegal by Madrid before it took place but which saw an overwhelming majority vote for secession.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.