The case has become symbolic of the issue of freedom of expression in the country and tensions are not abating. Clashes between the police and thousands of demonstrators in Barcelona on Saturday February 20, protesting for the fifth consecutive night against the imprisonment of a 32-year-old Catalan rapper, Pablo Hasel.
The series of protests began on Tuesday after he was imprisoned and sentenced to nine months in prison for tweets in which he insulted the monarchy and the police, as well as for defending terrorism.
The police were deployed en masse on Saturday evening in the streets of Barcelona, as well as in Madrid, to try to prevent violence. The clashes started when several thousand demonstrators marched towards the police headquarters.
The protesters threw bottles, cans and firecrackers in the direction of the police officers who responded with charges against a backdrop of burning barricades.
Some rioters smashed windows along Passeig de Gràcia Avenue, one of Barcelona’s main shopping avenues, looting luxury clothing stores. They also attacked the Barcelona Stock Exchange building and set fire to several motorcycles.
A hundred people arrested
In Madrid, around 400 people gathered in the city center, under heavy police protection, to chant slogans such as “Free Pablo Hasel” and clap your hands in time. Gatherings of a few hundred people also took place in the early evening in Malaga, Cordoba and Seville (south), according to local media.
In total, nearly a hundred people have been arrested since Tuesday and many more injured, including police officers and a young girl who lost an eye in Barcelona, probably after a rubber bullet from the police.
Most of the protests started in Barcelona, where the rapper is from, and have spread to other cities across Spain.
The violence has also sparked a political row, exacerbated by divisions within the government coalition that brings together the socialists of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the radical left-wing party Podemos. Pedro Sanchez condemned the violence while the leaders of Podemos gave their support to the demonstrators.