Belgian court again refuses extradition of Spanish rapper Valtònyc
The Chamber of Indictments in the Belgian city of Ghent decided on Tuesday morning to again refuse the extradition of Spanish rapper Valtònyc to Spain. This happened after the Court of Cassation had annulled part of the previous judgment. The public prosecutor's office can again lodge an appeal in cassation.
The Ghent section of the East-Flanders public prosecutor's office had obtained a European arrest warrant for Josep Miquel Arenas, alias Valtònyc. The Mallorca-born rapper had been found guilty of glorifying terrorism by the Balearic Court in 2017. In his lyrics, the young artist also allegedly provoked the Spanish royal family and threatened politicians with death. The Supreme Court upheld the verdict in February 2018, amid protests across the country.
Although he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, Valtònyc fled to Belgium. When the rapper turned himself in with the Belgian police, he was conditionally released by the investigating judge. In September 2018, the council chamber decided that Valtònyc would not be extradited.
However, the public prosecutor appealed, after which the Ghent chamber of indictments ruled late last year that there could be no question of a extradition. The Court of Cassation broke the judgment, only with regard to the insults against the Spanish crown. The Chamber of Indictments now states that this cannot serve as a basis for the extradition in accordance with the judgment of the Constitutional Court and considers that the violations of other articles do not concern the King as victim.
"The Indictments Chamber followed the ruling of the Constitutional Court and decided that my client will not be surrendered. We are very pleased with the verdict, but we are waiting to see if the public prosecutor will appeal again to the Court of Cassation," Paul Bekaert, Valtònyc's lawyer, said to De Standaard.
If no appeal is lodged with the Court of Cassation, the verdict of the Chamber of Indictments is final.
It is not the first time that Spain calls a rapper to account. In early 2021, Spanish rapper Hasél was put behind bars for nine months for insulting the king. Freedom of speech is interpreted very narrowly in Spain, especially when it comes to the king, the police or terrorists.
Incidentally, this is also not the first time that Belgium has offered shelter to Catalans fleeing the Spanish government. In 2017, our country sheltered Carles Puigdemont when he had to flee the country after the Catalan parliament declared independence. The Spanish prosecutor's office wanted to charge Puigdemont with rebellion, misuse of public money and sedition and requested his extradition via a European arrest warrant.
Since then, the Spanish authorities have tried more than once to get the Catalan politician, who has parliamentary immunity because of his seat in the European Parliament, to return to his home base.
Memorandum of Understanding
In recent years, the issue has strained ties between Spain and Belgium. In the summer of 2021, Belgian and Spanish foreign ministers Sophie Wilmès and Arancha González Laya signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding' to strengthen political dialogue and bilateral relations between the two countries.
© BELGA PHOTO Nicolas Maeterlinck - Rapper Valtonyc talks to the press after a session of council chamber in Gent justice palace on the extradition to Spain of Spanish rapper Valtonyc (Josep Miquel Arenas Beltran), Monday 03 September 2018.