Thursday, February 22, 2018

Valtonyc: A Berk, Not A Threat

In August 2012 I wrote: "I can't be certain but I wouldn't be at all surprised were Josep Miquel Arenas, aka Josemy Valtonyc Marx Beltrán (Es Rapero Pagés - Marxista Leninista) to receive a visit from someone in the near future. Who is Josemy Valtonyc etc.? He is a 17-year-old rapper and he is not happy with, variously: the King and the royal family; Jorge Campos, the founder of the Círculo Balear; the mayor of Sineu; and the president of Nuevas Generaciones in Sineu.

Referred to as the rapper from Sa Pobla, despite a connection with Sineu (he went to school there and has, you might have noticed, got problems with some people from Sineu), Valtonyc has been creating a right old rapping rumpus. Via his poetry, he has nominated the King for assassination, Jorge Campos for death, and both Pere Joan Jaume, the mayor, and Laura Montenegro, of Nuevas Generaciones, for the receipt of a silver bullet, presumably from the barrel of a gun and not in a velvet-lined presentation box."

Five years and six months later, a prison sentence of three and a half years for Valtonyc has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Valtonyc had taken an appeal to the highest court, the Audiencia Nacional having a year ago handed out the original sentence. The court has rejected his appeal, which was based on freedom of expression and artistic creativity. The court has pointed to the "seriousness" of what was expressed in a Valtonyc song (and others) and has taken into account, among other things, the "lauding" of terrorist organisations, such as ETA, which went beyond expressions of solidarity based on ideology and instead involved praise of violent means and political objectives of those organisations.

The Supreme Court also identified all those who Valtonyc had threatened, insulted or humiliated: King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the Infanta Elena, Jorge Campos, Dolores de Cospedal, Esperanza Aguirre, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Guardia Civil, Froilán Marichalar (the son of Elena), José Ramón Bauzá, and more. An open and shut case? Three and a half years?

Valtonyc has reacted to the court's rejection of his appeal by insisting that there is no freedom of expression, that he has no trust in the "Spanish state", that he will be a "political prisoner" and that he didn't commit any "blood crime", he just wrote a song.

A whole host of personalities from the arts and culture worlds have come out in support of Valtonyc. They include the veteran Mallorcan singer Tomeu Penya, hardly the most rebellious of artists or performers. Some two hundred of them have signed up to a manifesto which rejects the sentence as it limits a fundamental right of freedom of expression. It will condemn the now 23-year-old to serve time in prison when the same judicial institutions that have condemned him absolve and pardon businesspeople, politicians and members of royalty.

His lawyer, Juan Manuel Olarieta, says that the sentence hadn't been expected; it makes no sense. It is a total "aberration", and there is to be a further appeal to the Constitutional Court. Political parties and politicians on the left have attacked the sentence. Jorge Campos, satisfied with the court's decision, has called for the resignation of politicians who have sided with Valtonyc. They include Bel Busquets and David Abril of Més; the mayor of Calvia, Alfonso Rodríguez; Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos; Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona.

It can be easy to pick and choose from what Valtonyc rapped. Wanting to get Iñaki Urdangarin to work in a Burger King was hardly threatening or insulting. Saying that the Bourbons are thieves was more serious insofar as a crime can be deemed to have been committed if the royal family is insulted. Generally though, the courts -at most - issue fines if an insult is considered to have been particularly serious.

The apparent lauding of terrorism was another matter, as were the apparent threats. Defending these on the grounds of freedom of expression inevitably raises questions of what limits there should be (if any) to this freedom. Nevertheless, the sentence is harsh; it is wrong. Three and a half years?

Valtonyc's greatest crime was not that he threatened anyone or praised terrorist organisations; it was that he was a berk. He was a teenage berk who allowed his immaturity to get the better of him. He, in himself, is and was no threat to anyone. He was a stupid boy who was rather too full of himself. You don't or shouldn't send someone to jail for being a berk.

The judicial process has merely given him publicity. Yes, he overstepped the mark; yes, in law he was wrong; yes, there are limits to freedom of expression. But the sentence serves little purpose. It also fuels further the current political unrest, and now Valtonyc may be added to the other political prisoners.

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