Belgium refuses extradition of fugitive Spanish rapper

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A Belgian court on Monday rejected a Spanish extradition request for rapper Valtonyc, who has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for allegedly praising terrorism in his songs.

Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran -- better known as "Valtonyc" -- is one of several Twitter users and rappers who have recently been tried in Spain for glorifying terror or for insulting the king.

"The judge has decided there will be no extradition," one of the musician's lawyers, Simon Bekaert, said after a court hearing in the northwestern Belgian city of Ghent.

In a statement, prosecutors said they would appeal the decision.

The 24-year-old musician from Majorca was traced to Belgium after he published a blurry photograph on his Twitter account showing a canal and a red and white tourist boat typical of Ghent.

Spain's National Court, which last year found Valtonyc guilty of glorifying terror, insulting the king and making threats in his lyrics, issued an European arrest warrant after the sighting.

The warrant came just months after Catalan separatist leaders went into exile, also in Belgium, to escape Spanish authorities over their role in a failed secession bid.

"I am very happy for you and for democracy," Catalonia's deposed president Carles Puigdemont, who now lives in Belgian exile, said on Twitter.

"Europe is an area of freedom where the abuses of certain states are finally unacceptable," Puigdemont added.

Beltran was sentenced for lyrics in songs published online in 2012 and 2013 at a time when he was a little-known rapper in the Balearic Islands.

These included: "Let them be as frightened as a police officer in the Basque Country" and "the king has a rendezvous at the village square, with a noose around his neck."

The reference to the Basque Country was understood as a nod to violence by ETA, the separatist group that for decades staged attacks across Spain that left more than 800 officials and civilians dead.

His lyrics have divided opinion in Spain, with some saying they would not land him in jail in any other democracy, while others stress that free speech has its limits.


© 2018 AFP

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