Belgium's Constitutional Court has overturned the country's lèse-majesté law - the law that penalises slander against royalty - as a result of a claim presented by the exiled Mallorcan rapper Josep Miquel Arenas, alias Valtònyc, in his legal fight against extradition to Spain. Asked by the Ghent Court of Appeal, which is examining the European Arrest Warrant against the singer, the constitutional court ruled on Thursday that the 1847 Belgian law, which punishes those who insult the king with up to three years in prison, is unconstitutional because it does not respect freedom of expression. The court thus concludes that the Belgian law does not comply with the country's constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights.
The extradition of the rapper, which will be decided on November 23rd in the Ghent Court of Appeal, thus becomes very unlikely. Valtònyc was sentenced in Spain to three and a half years' prison for insults to royalty, glorification of terrorism and death threats for the lyrics of his songs. The rapper appealed to the Belgian judiciary, which has now ruled that insults against the king are protected by freedom of expression.
The 19th century Belgian law states that it is a crime to insult the king. Valtònyc's appeal challenged this on the basis of the freedom of expression and fundamental rights. In September last year the Ghent Court of Appeal decided to consult the Belgian Constitutional Court on the extradition of Valtònyc and presented this preliminary question that has been resolved today, more than a year later. After a court of first instance had already rejected the singer's handover to Spain, and after the resolution of the Belgian Constitutional Court, now the Ghent court has to decide whether to extradite him or not.
Valtònyc went into exile in Belgium in June 2018 after being sentenced by Spain's National Audience to two years in prison for offences of glorifying terrorism and another year and a half for insulting the crown. These crimes were allegedly committed between 2012 and 2013.
Valtònyc sees it as a "collective" victory that the Belgian Constitutional Court has decided to overturn the lèse-majesté law in the country on the grounds that it does not respect freedom of expression. In a tweet, the rapper affirmed that he has always wanted to "rest the case on fundamental rights" so that it would lead to a "collective benefit". "We've succeeded, we've won and Belgium is eliminating the offence of insulting the crown from its Penal Code. I didn't bow my head, but you haven't left me alone," said Valtònyc.
Asked to rule on the question by the Ghent Court of Appeal, which is examining the warrant presented by Spanish justice for the rapper's arrest and extradition, the Belgian Constitutional Court has concluded that the country's 1847 law is unconstitutional. The rapper's lawyer, Simon Bekaert, called the Belgian court's decision a "victory". "It is an historic step in Belgium's legal system and good news for the Valtònyc extradition case," the lawyer said in a tweet.