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Valtònyc

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Valtònyc (2018)

Valtònyc, Jordi Pesarrodona (clown and city councilor) and César Strawberry (writer and frontman of the most famous Spanish rap-rock group Def Con Dos[1]) in 2018 at ″Llibertats en perill?″, an event organised by Òmnium Cultural as part of the campaign “Demà pots ser tu / Tomorrow it could be you”, whose aim was to reflect on attacks on freedom of expression.[2]

Josep Miquel Arenas Beltrán (born 18 December 1993 in Sa Pobla, Mallorca), better known by his stage name Valtònyc, is a Spanish rapper. In his anti-capitalist and anti-fascist lyrics, he expressed his anger at the police, monarchy and corruption when he was 18 years old and was targeted by the Spanish justice system. In 2018, just before beginning a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, he absconded to Belgium, generating international media coverage.

Life

Lyrics controversy

A native of the Balearic island of Mallorca, he released his debut single Desde el papel in 2009.[3] He first caused controversy in August 2012 with the song Circo Balear, in which he attacked the then president of the Autonomous Community of the Balearic Islands Jorge Campos Asensi and some government officials, singing “Jorge Campos deserves a nuclear bomb”. Campos was then president of CírCULO Balear, a civic-cultural association that from 2018 became the far-right party Actúa Baleares, founded to fight Catalanism. Campos felt threatened by the text and filed a complaint. Valtonyc appeared at police headquarters at the time and was dismissed with only one complaint.[3]

Equally controversial was the song La TuerKa Rap, released the same year, in which he rapped, “If I hype ETA, they lock me up, if you’re a …son like Urdangarin, don’t.” This, he charged, was not just glorification of ETA, but “denigration of authority” and “the crown”. In another song, he called for the summer residence of the royal family in Palma de Mallorca to be occupied by force of arms.[4] And he also sang verses like “The Bourbon king and his activities – you don’t know if he hunts elephants or stays with prostitutes”.[5]

In total, 16 songs were found to have criminal relevance, resulting in years of investigation.[3] In his defense, Valtònyc argued that the language of rap was “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic.”[4] And explained, “The state only takes action against leftist groups and individuals.” Criticism from the left is buried under the pretext of national security – hate speech from the right, on the other hand, is not punished.[5]

The criminal charges, were not mitigated by the fact that Iñaki Urdangarin, a member of the Spanish royal family, was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison for corruption.[6] And Juan Carlos I had to abdicate in 2014 and fled to Abu Dhabi in 2020 to escape investigations into corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.[7]

In similar cases, the rapper Pablo Hasél and the twelve rappers of the collective La Insurgencia, were each sentenced to more than two years in prison and fines. Or the case of Cassandra Vera, 18 years old at the time, who was sentenced to one year in prison for posting 40-year-old anti-Franquist jokes on Twitter.[6][5]

Condemnation

The special court Audience nationale in Madrid

On 22 February 2017, the Audiencia Nacional Special Court finally sentenced him to three and a half years in prison.[8] Two years of this were for defamation and aggravated lèse majesté, one year for glorification of terrorism and half a year for threatening Campos, to whom he was also to pay a compensation payment of 3,000 euros.[3]

Demonstration against the “gag law” in Madrid, 20 December 2014.

The basis for the condemnation was the 2015 “Citizen Security Law” (Ley de seguridad ciudadana), colloquially known as the Gag Law (Ley Mordaza), of the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the right-wing Partido Popular (PP) – enacted when there was a widespread wave of protests in the wake of the global economic crisis (Protests in Spain 2011/2012).[9] The New York Times spoke in an editorial of the “ominous gag law” and concluded in its assessment: “The gag law throws Spain back to the dark days of Franco’s regime.”[10][11]

The artist’s appeal was dismissed by the Spanish Constitutional Court a year later on the grounds that the lyrics were not covered by freedom of expression and art. The date of imprisonment was set for 24 May 2018.[12]

This decision sparked a debate in Spain about freedom of expression and led to expressions of solidarity throughout the country. Critics said that the anti-terror laws were being abused to silence Valtònyc. He received support from Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of the left-wing populist Podemos party. After more than 7000 people had already signed a petition for an acquittal, a concert was organised in favour of the convict.[6][3] Meanwhile, Valtònyc announced via Twitter “disobedience” and called Spain a “fascist state”. He also made headlines when he called for the killing of Guardia Civil police officers during a concert.[12]

Escape 2018 and ECJ ruling 2020

On July 28, 2018, Quim Torra, president of the Generalitat de Catalunya, during his speech at the welcoming ceremony for Puigdemont at the Casa de la República in Waterloo, in which he called for the freedom of political prisoners and exiles and a “peaceful struggle” against “the shame and indecency of a state that sends the police against its citizens.” Valtònyc on the far left.

Immediately before entering custody, Valtònyc fled to Belgium in May 2018, as several Catalan politicians had done a year earlier following Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum – including regional president Carles Puigdemont. Spanish authorities sought a European arrest warrant, but a court in Ghent ruled against his extradition on September 17. It said the offences punishable in Spain were not so punishable in Belgium.[4][13] The human rights organisation Amnesty International published a report and warned that the Spanish government was in the process of silencing its critics with draconian laws. By criminalising permissible statements, it is disregarding internationally valid human rights.[5]

The Court of Justice of the European Union also rejected the request for a European-wide arrest warrant in March 2020, finding that the Spanish judiciary could not make use of the 2015 law competent to do so retroactively (for offences committed in 2012).[14][15]

Valtònyc mocks Spanish justice via Twitter, “Does anyone know if there is a cheap course on how to correctly fill out European Arrest Warrant forms? I’m asking for a friend.”[16]

Political asylum in Belgium

Valtònyc was able to start studying in Belgium and made the album EPD (En Pau Descansi) in 2020 – with funding from the Belgian government.[17]

Discography

Studio albums

  • 2015: Rap Rural
  • 2018: El Reincident
  • 2020: EPD

Singles (selection)

  • 2009: Desde el papel
  • 2010: Misantropia
  • 2011: Jazz amb llágrimes de rom
  • 2012: Residus d’un poeta
  • 2012: Mallorca és ca nostra
  • 2012: Cadenas
  • 2013: Aina i altres ansietats
  • 2013: Microglicerina
  • 2014: Eutanasia
  • 2015: Simbiòsi
  • 2015: La autodestrucción y sus ventajas
  • 2016: Neversleep

Web links

Commons: Valtònyc– Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. Inconvenient Spanish artists in the focus of justice, 25 February 2016
  2. https://www.omnium.cat/ca/activitat/dema-pots-ser-tu/
  3. a b c d e El rapero español Valtonyc fue condenado a prisión: ¿Injusticia o legalidad?Radiónica/Televisión Nacional de Colombia, accessed 17 September 2018 (Spanish).
  4. a b c Belgium does not extradite Spanish rapper Valtonyc.ORF, September 17, 2018, accessed September 17, 2018.
  5. a b c d Spain’s anti-terror laws – A rapper hounded out of the country, The Weekly, 15 November 2018
  6. a b c Sabine Winkler:Anger at police, monarchy and corruption: Why Spanish rapper Valtonyc must go to prison.Musikexpress, 13 May 2018, accessed 17 September 2018.
  7. Juan Carlos I: Escape to the private beach, Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 7, 2020
  8. El cantante mallorquín Valtonyc, condenado a 3 años y 6 meses de cárcel.Diario de Mallorca, 22 February 2017, retrieved 17 September 2018 (Spanish).
  9. https://english.elpais.com/elpais/2018/06/25/inenglish/1529918352_148656.html
  10. Spain’s Ominous Gag Law, The New York Times, 22 April 2015
  11. Freedom of expression gone and everything can now be terrorism in Spain, July 1, 2015
  12. a b El rapero Valtonyc se fuga de España para eludir la prisión.El País, 24 May 2018, retrieved 17 September 2018 (Spanish).
  13. Michael Maier:Belgium leaves Mallorca rapper Valtonyc free.Mallorca Magazine, 17 September 2018, accessed 17 September 2018.
  14. Álvaro Sánchez:La justicia europea da la razón a Valtònyc y complica su entrega a España.El País, 3 March 2020, accessed 7 March 2020 (Spanish).
  15. Court of Justice of the European Union, PRESS RELEASE No 22/20Luxembourg, 3 March 2020
  16. Spain’s tricky justice system fails again in Europe, March 4, 2020
  17. Valtònyc Like Pablo Hasél, Spain wants me jailed for rap lyrics – but artists must not self-censor, The Guardian, March 1, 2021