A Belgian court has rejected the extradition of a Spanish rapper

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Ghent, Belgium – A Belgian court on Tuesday ruled that Spanish rapper Valtonic should not be extradited to Spain, where he has been jailed for writing songs praising a terrorist group and insulting the royal family.

The 28-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran and who has been living in exile in Belgium since 2018, faces a total of three-and-a-half years in prison in Spain.

Francis Clarice, a Ghent prosecutor, told The Associated Press that the prosecution now has 24 hours to decide whether to appeal the decision to Belgium’s highest court, the Cassation Court. Tuesday’s ruling rejects a request for extradition from Spanish judicial authorities for the fourth time.

Clarice said the latest appeal was declared “baseless, meaning no transfer of funds”.

Valtonyc’s case has become popular in Spain, with organizations claiming that the Spanish authorities are cracking down on freedom of speech. The Palma de Mallorca singer and composer was jailed at the age of 18 for songs he wrote praising terrorist groups, threatening a Spanish politician with violence and insulting the royal family.

During his trial in Spain, the court rejected Arenas’ argument that rap songs should be provocative and should be protected by freedom of speech law.

Rights organizations and activists consider Valtonyc’s case as an example of a broader legal and political dispute over freedom of expression, the way prosecutors have reprimanded him for using the criminal code to punish him for “glorifying terrorism” or insulting the Crown.

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