ADVOCATE GENERAL of the European Court of Justice Michael Bobek has argued that Madrid should not be able to extradite a Spanish rapper who faces three-and-a-half years jail.
Josep Miquel Arenas, whose stage name is Valtonyc, was sentenced to jail in 2018 on charges of glorifying terrorism, insulting the Spanish crown and making threatening statements.
The penalty he received was based on harsher sentences for the offences introduced in 2015, three years after he recorded and released the songs at the heart of the case. He was the first musician to be given a jail term for his music since the Franco dictatorship in Spain ended in 1977.
On hearing his sentence Valtonyc fled to Belgium the day before he was due to report to prison in May 2018. Once there he reported to authorities and claimed political asylum.
Ever since, Spain has been pursuing him for extradition. In September last year the Belgium court of first instance refused to extradite him on the basis that the songs fell within freedom of expression and as such the crimes he was convicted of were not eligible for him to be sent back to Spain.
With the case now referred to the ECJ, Advocate General Bobek is arguing that Valtonyc can only be extradited on statute that applied at the time he made the music.
He argues that this would offer a “simple, clear and foreseeable legal framework” where Valtonyc knew the penalties involved when he ‘offended’.
The advocate general’s opinion is not binding on the ECJ’s but it will carry weight in the judges’ final decision.
The 26-year-old musician became notorious in Spain in 2012 when he started rapping with lyrics based on his communist, anti-capitalist Republican and anti-fascist ideology.
His legal problems began in August 2012 when he was arrested. Court papers said his lyrics “supported and praised” groups including ETA and GRAPO, and wished death on politicians and members of the Spanish Royal Family.