Spanish police storm university, arrest rapper convicted in free speech case

Riot police arrive to detain Spanish rapper Pablo Hasel inside the University of Lleida, after Hasel was sentenced to jail time on charges including insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism, in Lleida, Spain February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Lorena Sopena

LLEIDA, Spain (Reuters) – Dozens of Spanish police stormed a university on Tuesday and arrested a rapper who had barricaded himself inside after being sentenced to jail on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting royalty in his lyrics.

Pablo Hasel and a group of his supporters had taken refuge the previous day in the university in the northeastern town of Lleida. He had had until last Friday to hand himself over to the police to serve a nine-month sentence.

He was convicted in 2018 over lyrics and tweets that included references to banned guerrilla groups, compared a court to Nazis and called former king Juan Carlos a mafia boss.

More than 200 artists, including film director Pedro Almodovar, actor Javier Bardem and singer Joan Manuel Serrat, signed a petition against Hasel’s jailing, and the case led the government to announce some easing of restrictions on free speech.

Reporting by Guillermo Martinez and Inti Landauro; editing by John Stonestreet