Josep Miquel Arenas, Valtònyc, was sentenced by the Supreme Court in 2018 to three and a half years in prison for insults, glorification of terrorism and threats. The Court of First Instance rejected the extradition and the Ghent Court of Appeal has decided this Tuesday to set December 28 for the hearing in which to communicate the ruling on the case.
Rap, terrorism and insults to Juan Carlos I: the Belgian justice decides on the extradition of Valtònyc
“The prosecution has said that a conviction for insulting is disproportionate, but has left the door open to extradition,” Valtònyc said: “On December 28 there will be a definitive answer on extradition. In the event of a conviction, we have asked to serve his sentence in Belgium. The Spanish state has no problems in jailing rappers, and has problems and convictions from the human rights court. ”
Valtónyc’s lawyer, Simon Bekaert, explained that “he maintains the extradition request, and now we await the decision of the Court on December 28. The same arguments that we have argued are those of the Belgian Constitutional Court. In Belgium we have no apology for terrorism. , and the investigating court has already rejected it. We have asked that there be no extradition, but if it were considered hypothetically, we ask that the sentences be served in Belgium, which in no case will be for the three crimes for which he was convicted in Spain. In Belgium you have to ask for these things before the ruling, you can’t ask for it afterwards. It’s a precaution just in case. ”
The Belgian Constitutional Court already moved away the extradition of Valtònyc a month ago. On October 22, the Belgian Constitutional Court decided that insults to the king are protected by freedom of expression; and, therefore, that a Belgian law of 1847 relating to offenses to the king “is contrary to freedom of expression”, so it does not apply to judge the rapper in 2021.
On September 15, 2020, the Court of Appeal of Ghent (Belgium) decided to refer a preliminary ruling to the Belgian Constitutional Court on the extradition for terrorism carried out by Spain after the rapper left for Belgium in June 2018. What the court of Ghent asked to the Constitutional is if the crimes of libel for which Valtònyc has been convicted in Spain are protected by a fundamental right such as freedom of expression. And the Constitutional Court considered that the crime of offenses is contrary to freedom of expression.
Simon Bekaert, Valtònyc’s lawyer, explained: “Of the three crimes for which he was convicted by the Supreme Court, the threats and the glorification of terrorism have already been rejected in the courts of first instance. Now the question is about offenses against the king. In Belgium we have a law from the mid-nineteenth century on offenses to the king, and the court in Ghent asks whether the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. ” The ruling of the Constitutional tomb de facto this nineteenth-century Belgian law, insofar as it has been considered “contrary to freedom of expression” and insofar as it “does not satisfy an urgent social need and is disproportionate to the objective of protecting the reputation of the king’s person.”
“I have always been clear that I wanted to put my case in the hands of fundamental rights for collective benefit”, Valtònyc said after hearing the decision of the Belgian Constitutional: “We have achieved it, we have won and Belgium eliminates the insults in the crown of the Penal Code. I did not lower my head but you have not left me alone. Thank you.”
“Article 19 of the Constitution prohibits freedom of expression from being subject to preventive restrictions,” stated the Belgian Constitutional ruling, which adds: “By sanctioning crimes publicly expressed against the person of the king, article 1 of the law of April 6, 1847 constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of expression. ”
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has already ruled by prioritizing freedom of expression over insults, as in the case of Arnaldo Otegi in 2011.
The Belgian justice rejected in the first instance the delivery of Valtònyc in September 2018, claiming that there was no double criminality, that is, none of the three charges for which he was convicted in Spain are classified as a crime, neither in Spain nor in Belgium. decision that the Ghent Prosecutor’s Office appealed: having issued the Belgian Constitutional in favor of Valtònyc, the insults to the crown fall from the Belgian Penal Code.
In addition, there has also been a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU, in March 2020, in which it failed that Spain did wrong when applying the Penal Code of 2015 to Valtònyc. The thesis of Spain defended that the Spanish criminal law of 2015 be applied to it, when the sentence against Valtònyc was passed – but not when the facts were committed -, and that it punishes more severely the apology of terrorism, instead of that of 2012, more beneficial to the interests of the Mallorcan rapper and that implies an insufficient a priori sentence to be extradited.
Valtònyc’s defense, played by Paul and Simon Bekaert, whom Gonzalo Boye accompanied in the courtroom, argued that the judicial authorities “deceived” in the process by not having communicated that there had been a change in the Spanish Penal Code between the commission of the facts, in 2012, and the aggravation of the sentences foreseen when the surrender was requested, in 2018.
The ruling of the Ghent Court of Appeal can be appealed by the parties to the Court of Cassation, where the forms of the process are reviewed, not the merits.