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Violent protests erupt in Madrid and Barcelona again over jailing of rapper

Rapper Pablo Hasel barricaded himself and supporters in a university during a 24-hour standoff with police.

Demonstrators clash with police in Spain yesterday
Demonstrators clash with police in Spain yesterday
Image: PA Images

Updated Feb 17th 2021, 10:02 PM

SPANISH POLICE HAVE clashed with protesters in Madrid and Barcelona tonight, as fresh demonstrations broke out over the jailing of a rapper for tweets insulting police and the monarchy.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered under a heavy police presence at Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square, calling for 32-year-old rapper Pablo Hasel to be released and wielding banners reading “enough censorship”.

Masked protesters threw bottles at police, who charged at them in clashes that lasted for several hours, AFP journalists reported.

Madrid’s conservative mayor condemned the violence, tweeting: “The violent and those who do not accept the rules have no place in our society.”

In Barcelona there were also altercations between police and protesters following heavy clashes last night, with demonstrators lobbing objects at officers and setting barricades made with dustbins ablaze. 

Police responded with foam bullets.

Around six people had been detained, Catalan police said, following at least 15 arrests a night earlier following violent protests in Barcelona and other cities in the northern Catalonia region.

Last night’s unrest left more than 30 people injured, including 19 police officers, according to local authorities.

Earlier yesterday, police had stormed a university campus in the Catalan city of Lerida to arrest Hasel, who had barricaded himself inside to avoid prison.

Hasel missed a deadline last Friday to give himself up to police and begin serving a nine-month jail term handed down in 2018. 

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At issue was a series of tweets calling former king Juan Carlos I a mafia boss and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants.

Hasel is known for his hard-left views, but his case has become a cause celebre among campaigners who say that prosecuting him is a dangerous assault on free speech. 

His sentence caused outrage in Spain, with stars including the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and the Hollywood actor Javier Bardem expressing support for his cause.

The Socialist-led government has announced it is seeking to make free speech laws less restrictive, with Podemos, the junior partner in the coalition, saying yesterday that it would request a pardon for the rapper.

© AFP 2021

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