Rapper holes up in Spain university to avoid jail for tweets

Madrid (AFP) –


A Spanish rapper due to begin a controversial nine-month jail sentence over a string of Tweets on Monday barricaded himself inside a Catalan university to avoid arrest, he wrote on Twitter.

"I'm locked inside the University of Lleida with quite a few supporters so they'll have to break in if they want to arrest me and put me in prison," Pablo Hasel tweeted.

A spokeswoman for the university in Lerida, which lies 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Barcelona, confirmed Hasel was at the city centre campus with a group of "about 20 supporters", but said the situation was calm and the police were not involved.

Hasel was given until Friday night to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence after being convicted for glorifying terrorism, slander and libel against the crown and state institutions.

At issue was a string of tweets attacking the monarchy and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants, with his case sparking protests in Madrid and Barcelona.

"I refuse to go of my own accord and knock on the prison door so they'll just have to come and kidnap me," he told AFP on Friday.

Hundreds of artists have signed a petition demanding his release, including film director Pedro Almodovar, Hollywood actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.

Last week, Spain's government pledged to reduce the penalty for "crimes of expression" such as the glorification of terrorism, hate speech, insults to the crown and offences against religious sensibilities, in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual activities.

The case echoes that of another rapper called Valtonyc who fled to Belgium in 2018 after being convicted of similar crimes.

Spain is trying to have him extradited but Belgium has refused on grounds that his offences are not a crime under Belgian law.