18th April 2024
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Belgium again refuses extradition of Spanish rapper Valtonyc

A court in Belgium on Tuesday rejected another request by Spain to extradite the rapper José Miguel Arenas Beltrán, also known as Valtonyc.

The Mallorcan rapper fled Spain for Belgium in 2018, after being sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on charges of glorifying terrorism, insulting the Spanish monarchy and making threats in his lyrics.

Ghent Appellate Court turned down Spain’s latest attempt at having Valtonyc returned to Spanish territory in order to serve the prison sentence. The prosecution has 24 hours to appeal the decision but the musician’s lawyers regard it as ‘unlikely’.

Leaving the court on Tuesday, Valtonyc, 28, said he was ‘finally free and happy’ after having been subject to regular police checks as he fought against a European arrest warrant. ‘I’m not a terrorist and the court has proved me right,’ he said. He also said that he felt ‘very angry and very helpless’ for his fellow artists who are serving time in Spain for the contents of their lyrics. ALSO READ: Rapper Pablo Hasél detained by police, after barricading himself in at Lleida University.

The rapper’s lawyer Simon Bekaert welcomed the decision, calling it a ‘good day for music and freedom of expression’.

‘Victory! After three years of legal procedures, a detour to the European Court of Justice and to the Belgian Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal rules that Valtonyc cannot be extradited,’ Bekaert wrote on Twitter.

Bekaert said the appeals court in the city of Ghent had ruled that the offences were not a crime under Belgian law.

‘There is no extradition for any of the three cases … It is over. The court has said: the things for which he has been condemned in Spain are not crimes in Belgium,’ he told reporters after hearing the ruling.

Valtonyc was sentenced for lyrics in songs published online in 2012 and 2013. The Spanish courts had accused the rapper of praising the Basque terrorist group ETA, as well as the defunct October First Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) in his songs, raising charges linked to the exaltation of terrorism, which constitutes a punishable felony in the Spanish criminal code.

The musician has defended his controversial lyrics, saying they were within his freedom of expression and of art, arguing that rap often makes use of extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic language.

The musician had also come under fire for calling the disgraced former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, a ‘thief’.

Juan Carlos I is currently living in the United Arab Emirates since allegations of financial scandals swirled and embarrassed the Spanish royal household last year. Also read: Swiss prosecutors close corruption probe against Spain’s former king Juan Carlos.

‘Well, I have called him (the king) a thief, they have condemned me for calling him a thief and in the end he is a thief,’ the rapper said.

Archive image of the rapper Valtonyc
Archive image of the rapper Valtonyc during a press conference in Brussels in July 2018.

Valtonyc thanked his supporters on Twitter following the ruling on Tuesday.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh, then they attack you and finally, you win,’ he wrote. ‘Thanks to those who have supported me since my arrest in 2012, from my exile to 2018, to the legal team,’ he added.

The rapper also said Belgian magistrates ‘have shown that they are independent’ and that they ‘respect European standards of the 21st century’.

‘Belgian society can be happy that the right of expression, the freedom to express oneself, has been respected,’ he declared. 

The Valtonyc case also forced Belgium to consider changes in its lèse-majesté law. In Belgium, the slander, defamation or insult of the monarch and the royal family are still technically crimes under a 1847 law, although it is rarely enforced, especially after the country repealed insult laws that protected foreign heads of state in 2005.

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