Spanish police on Tuesday arrested a rapper who barricaded himself inside a university after he was controversially sentenced to nine months in jail over a string of tweets, television images showed.
Pablo Hasel, 32, had been given until last 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 series of tweets attacking the monarchy and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants, with his case sparking protests in Madrid and Barcelona.
But Hasel, who is known for his radical leftist views and whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla, on Monday barricaded himself inside the University of Lleida, in the northeastern Catalonia region, with dozens of supporters to avoid arrest.
Spanish television showed images of police escorting him out of the university on Tuesday.
“They will never make us give in, despite the repression,” Hasel said, his fist raised as he descended a staircase, wearing track pants and a sweatshirt and carrying a duffel bag.
A Catalan police spokesman told AFP that officers entered the university early Tuesday “to enforce the judicial ruling” on his arrest.
Police in protective gear removed chairs, garbage bins and other objects that had been set up as barricades to reach the spot where the singer was barricaded with his supporters.
Hundreds of artists have signed a petition demanding Hasel’s release, including film director Pedro Almodovar, Hollywood actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.
Hasel said on Twitter Monday: “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.”
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.
But in an interview with AFP last week, Hesel said he had no intention of turning himself in, accusing the government of making empty pledges.
“I refuse to go of my own accord and knock on the prison door,” he said.
“So they’ll just have to come and kidnap me, which will show up the state for what it really is: a phoney democracy.”
Far-left party Podemos, the junior partners in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, criticised Hesel’s arrest, saying all those who “consider themselves progressives should feel shame”.
“Are their eyes covered? There is no progress if we refuse to recognise our existing democratic shortcomings,” the party added in a tweet.
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 the grounds that his offences are not a crime under Belgian law.