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Rapper Valtonyc's 3-Year-Plus Prison Sentence for Song Lyrics Upheld by Spanish Supreme Court

The hip-hop artist must begin sentence for insulting the king and “inciting terrorism” in lyrics that call out government repression and corruption

The Spanish government has ordered Valtonyc, a 24-year-old rapper, to report to a federal prison within 10 days to begin a three-and-a-half-year sentence for his song lyrics.

Valtonyc was sentenced by the Spanish Supreme Court in February on charges of inciting terrorism and insulting the country’s royal family in songs posted on YouTube and other Internet platforms. The charges were made under a 2015 Spanish law that limits freedom of speech, prohibits mass gatherings and invokes fines for protesting and comments on social media. The widely maligned Ley Mordaza was ostensibly put in place as a "public safety law" to assist in the fight against terrorism.

“Calling me a terrorist is nonsense,” Valtonyc (pronounced Vatlonick) said last month during a conference on freedom of expression that took place at La Modelo, a former prison in Barcelona. “My songs don’t hurt anyone, I haven’t killed anyone. I rap about things that happen, but I’m not a participant.”

The hip-hop artist, whose real name is José Miguel Arenas Beltran, had invoked freedom of expression in his defense, describing the very nature of rap lyrics as “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic.”

Valtonyc lost an appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court on Friday. On Monday (May 14), The National High Court, where the rapper was first tried, ordered him to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence within 10 days.

The case has been among the most publicized of a recent wave of incidents in which Spanish officials have imposed punitive censorship on rappers, social media users, publishers and even a puppet show.

In April, a group of Spanish rap artists recorded a video in support of free speech in Barcelona’s La Modelo. The title of the collective song, "Los Borbones son unos Ladrones" (The Bourbons are Thieves), alludes to Valtonyc's lyrics about the royal family.

Thirty-five artists are set to perform at a concert/rally for freedom of expression and against the government’s actions in Palma, Mallorca, on Thursday. And Barcelona’s Primavera Pro conference, which runs parallel to the Primavera Sound festival, will offer a June 1 roundtable discussion featuring Amnesty International representatives that will center on the “alarming situation for freedom of expression” in Spain and “explain how it got to this point.”

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