Spain sees fifth night of violent riots over jailing of rapper

Pablo Hasel was imprisoned over what he calls an issue of free speech, having been jailed over controversial lyrics and tweets.

Photo: AP A demonstrator smashes a shop window during a protest condemning the arrest of rap singer Pablo Hasél in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, February 20, 2021.

There was more violence late Saturday as protesters took to the streets of key cities in Spain for a fifth night in a row to protest the jailing of a popular rapper.

Thousands of mostly young people demonstrated Saturday evening for the fifth night in a row to demand the release of Pablo Hasel and more freedom of expression. There were protest rallies on Saturday evening in Barcelona, in the Spanish capital Madrid, in Palma de Mallorca, Pamplona and in a host of Catalan cities in north-eastern Spain, including Lleida, the rapper's home town. Some protests turned violent.

According to the regional authorities, at least 11 people were arrested in Catalonia alone.

At least 6,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown Barcelona, the main Catalan city, for the largest rally to date, police estimated. Protesters again used rubbish bins to form barricades and set them alight. They smashed shop windows on the upmarket Passeig de Gracia avenue and looted shops.

Others pelted police officers with stones, bottles, firecrackers and eggs, dpa reported.

Police used truncheons and water cannon to get control of the situation. The El Periodico newspaper reported that police again fired rubber bullets. A young protester lost an eye on Tuesday in Barcelona as a result of such ammunition.

The rioting was initially sparked by the arrest on Tuesday of rapper Hasel for refusing to report to prison to serve his time. The 32-year-old was recently sentenced to nine months in prison for insulting the monarchy and glorifying violence. The rapper argues that his controversial content is covered by artistic licence.

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