The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has found in favour of the rapper Valtònyc - the Mallorcan musician sentenced to prison for some of his song lyrics - with its ruling today that Spain's attempt to retroactively apply its 2015 penal code to his case was not valid. The European arrest warrant for the musician, whose real name is Josep Miquel Arenas, is based on a harsher version of the Spanish penal code, introduced after the events the artist was tried over. This decision complicates still further the Spanish justice system's efforts to secure the extradition of the rapper, who has been in exile in Belgium since June 2018.
Last November, an ECJ advocate general, Michal Bobek, had already argued that Spain could not claim the extradition of the Mallorcan rapper under the later penal code which allowed for a tougher penalty for one of the crimes of which he was convicted - glorifying terrorism - than that in force at the time of the alleged offence. The difference in sentence is significant because the higher maximum penalty for the offence in the 2015 code - three years' prison - means that extradition is much more straightforward for the country requesting it, since it removes the requirement to verify double criminality - that is, to show that the events in question constitute a crime in both Belgian and Spanish law.
As a result of today's ruling, the Belgian court hearing the case has now to assess whether the crimes of which Valtònyc was found guilty in Spain have equivalents in the Belgian penal code. The Court of Appeal in Ghent will decide on this as part of its ruling on whether to accept extradition or not. In any case, the decision it makes could still be appealed to a third court.
After the ECJ's decision this Tuesday, the rapper told Catalunya Ràdio that "tricks and lies don't work in Europe". He added: "You can't extradite someone on the grounds of terrorism just for making music, you can't do that in Europe".
In exile since June 2018
The Mallorcan, who has been in Belgium since June 2018, was sentenced by Spain's National Audience court to three and a half years in prison for offences of threatening a person, glorifying terrorism and insulting the crown, a sentence later confirmed when it was appealed to the Spanish Supreme Court.
Belgian justice first rejected Valtònyc's extradition in September 2018 on the grounds that there was no double criminality, that is, that none of the three charges for which he was convicted in Spain were subject to criminal punishment in Belgium, a decision which Belgian prosecutors then appealed to the higher court in Ghent.