Photo: Valtònyc, accompanied by his lawyer Gonzalo Boye, at the Ghent Court (Credit: ACN)
By Bernat Surroca
From 17th September, 2018, Nacio Digital
Another pushback against Spanish justice: Belgian law today [Sept 17th] rejected the extradition of Valtònyc after a hearing this morning in the courts of Ghent. The rapper has charges against him in Spain for the crimes of incitement to terrorism and injuries & threats to the Crown, for lyrics in his songs. The Belgian judge asserted they did not see evidence of these crimes, and considered that the lyrics are protected by the freedom of expression. Now, however, the Spanish State can still appeal, if this is decided by the Belgian prosecutor, a scenario which Gonzalo Boye, Valtonyc’s lawyer considers likely.
In statements to the media, Valtònyc’s lawyer valued the decision of Belgian justice greatly. “We want to thank Belgian justice, who rejected extradition for lack of double criminality. The judge has made it very clear that the songs fall within freedom of expression and that none of the lyrics had criminal content,” he said. Valtònyc also celebrated the news and took the opportunity to report the situation that other rappers are undergoing in Spain. “It’s very sad that we have to leave our homes to get justice,” he lamented, and issued a warning: “We will come to Europe and create a precedent: in Spain there is neither freedom to vote nor freedom of expression”.
During this process, Valtònyc has been optimistic and was convinced that extradition would not occur, especially for the most serious crimes, because there is no double criminality, that is, the crimes alleged against the rapper in Spain are not classified in the Belgian Penal Code. Yesterday, Boye also sent a message of optimism that seen with perspective has become prescient: “We have to wait, but I am very confident in the weather forecast in Belgium.”
One of the options that the rapper contemplated in recent weeks is that the judge could, “in the worst case scenario”, accept extradition only for the crime of threats, punished with six months in prison. An option that in the end was not enacted, as anticipated by his optimistic defense, who maintained from the beginning that Valtonyc would not be handed over to the authorities because the lyrics of his songs were protected by freedom of expression. On the other hand, the Belgian prosecutor’s office already contradicted the Spanish judicial authorities and asserted that there was only one crime of opinion, a category that cannot be found on the list of 32 crimes by which a euro-order for extradition can be executed automatically.
The Mallorcan rapper has been in Belgium since June, when he was sentenced by the Spanish National Court to three and a half years in prison for the crimes of threats, incitement to terrorism and insults to the Crown, a sentence that would later be confirmed by the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court. From Belgium, Valtònyc has appeared at various events accompanied by Carles Puigdemont and the exiled Catalan counsellors, to denounce the lack of freedom of expression in Spain and the politicization of justice. Puigdemont, minutes after hearing the news, also reacted via Twitter: “I am happy for you, Valtònyc, and for democracy. Europe is a place of freedom where the abuses of certain states are simply unacceptable”