Belgium appeals court denies extradition of Spanish rapper accused of insulting monarchy, glorifying terrorism
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Belgium appeals court denies extradition of Spanish rapper accused of insulting monarchy, glorifying terrorism

The Ghent Court of Appeal Monday refused to extradite Spanish rapper José Miguel Arenas Beltrán to Spain. Arenas, known by his stage name Valtònyc, was due to serve a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for insulting the Spanish Royal Family and praising the Basque terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), but he fled to Belgium before starting his sentence in 2018.

This ruling comes after a four-year legal battle between Arenas and Belgian prosecutors. In December, 2021, the Ghent Court of Appeal ruled that Beltrán could not be extradited to Spain because insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism are not crimes under Belgian law. However, Belgium’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ordered a new trial as insulting the monarchy was a crime in Belgium until 2021, when it was declared unconstitutional.

Arenas’ case has attracted a considerable amount of attention from civil liberties advocates who have opposed both his conviction and his extradition to Spain on the grounds of freedom of expression. In 2021, Amnesty International said it “believes that the criminal prosecution and conviction against Valtònyc in Spain is an unlawful restriction of his right to freedom of expression… his speech is protected by the right to freedom of expression; any limitations on this right must be indeed construed very restrictively.” Arenas’ Belgian lawyer, Simon Bekaert, tweeted that the ruling signaled a “good day for music and freedom of expression.”

Belgian prosecutors said that the court’s ruling can still be appealed to the Court of Cassation.

This is not the first time Spain has been the subject of criticism for arresting rappers over their lyrical content. In February, 2021, authorities arrested rapper Pablo Hasél for similar crimes, leading to widespread protests across the country.