Spanish royal divorce, republic?


Cartoon on Spanish royals in El Jueves

From the BBC, 13 November 2007:

A court in Spain has convicted Manel Fontdevila, cartoons editor of the popular satirical weekly magazine El Jueves, and cartoonist “Guillermo” of “damaging the prestige of the crown“.

Both men received a hefty 3,000-euro (£2,100) fine.

Their offence was to have published a cartoon last July making ribald fun of the heir to the Spanish throne, and of the government’s scheme to encourage women to have more babies by giving mothers a special payment for each new birth.

It was a caricature of Prince Filipe [Felipe] having sex with his wife, Princess Letizia, and telling her: “Do you realise that if you get pregnant, it will be the closest thing to work I’ve done in my life?”

‘More censorship’

The cartoon is funny, but the issue raised by its banning is serious. The episode has worrying echoes of last year’s frenzied and violent protests against the cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad printed in European newspapers.

Now, it is 2018, and they are King Felipe and Queen Letizia.

Today, Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws reports on quarrels between King Felipe and Queen Letizia. That may lead to divorce (a no-no for fanatically Roman Catholic Spanish royals).

Two weeks ago, when she did a working visit, Queen Letizia was ‘welcomed’ by a crowd chanting: ‘Long live the republic!’

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Spanish rapper, convicted for rapping, not extradited


This 17 September 2018 video in Spanish is about a Belgian court refusing to extradite rapper Valtònyc to Spain.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

The Spanish rapper Valtònyc, who was sentenced to a prison sentence for his song lyrics and fled to Belgium, does not have to be extradited to Spain. This has been decided by the Belgian court.

The 24-year-old Josep Miquel Arenas Beltran, as the rapper really is called, was sentenced to a prison sentence of 3.5 years last year for glorification of terrorism, threats and insulting the Spanish crown in his song lyrics.

At the end of the session, lawyer Simon Bekaert told the press that the rapper, according to Belgian law, was not guilty of glorifying terrorism or lèse-majesté. “The council chamber has ruled that it is not terrorism and that there is no violation as far as Belgian law is concerned, nor was there any question of lèse-majesté.” The judge finally stated that there were no threats.

Arrest warrant

At the end of May of this year, when he had to start serving his prison sentence, Valtònyc fled to Belgium. The Mallorca rapper reported to the Belgian police two months later in Ghent after Spain had issued an arrest warrant.

The investigating judge had released the rapper conditionally, while the Belgian court had to rule on his arrest warrant.

Protest against Dutch royal hunting


Anti-royal hunting demonstrator today, photo NOS / Kysia Hekster

This photo shows a demonstrator against hunting by Dutch King Willem Alexander and his friends.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Some hundred people have demonstrated at Het Loo Royal Palace. They are against the annual shutdown in autumn of the woodlands near the palace during the traditional hunting season. A large part of the royal domain Het Loo near Apeldoorn was closed for more than three months. Until December 25, only the royal family may enter the woods.

A majority of the House of Representatives is against the annual closure, but Minister Schouten has rejected this wish and says that King Willem-Alexander is the administrator there.

Het Loo is called a ‘royal’ domain. But it is government property; the Dutch taxpayers pay its upkeep.

Driving hunt

The Fauna Protection Organisation and the Party for the Animals took action this afternoon to keep the forests open. They called on the king to be present, but he did not show up.

This morning the Fauna Protection Organisation placed a full-page letter in Trouw daily, in which the king was asked to keep the nature reserve open to the public throughout the year. The organization finds the closure unnecessary because the Royal House is said to have stopped their driving hunting for wild boar years ago. That drive hunt is also illegal. “It is a surprise to many citizens that the Royal Domain is nonetheless closed to the public every year for one hundred days”, writes the Fauna Protection Organisation.

Anti-royal hunting demonstrators today, photo NOS / Kysia Hekster

The sign on the left of this photo says, translated: Hurry up (or, in a wordplay: Stop shooting) open up (the nature reserve)! The sign on the right says Don’t let them shoot the wild boar! Party for the Animals.

Conflicts in Saudi royal family


This 24 August 2018 video says about itself:

War in Yemen: Dozens of civilians killed in Saudi-UAE bombing

Houthi rebels say at least 30 people were killed in an air raid near Hodeidah, at least 20 of them children.

The latest civilian casualties come two weeks after an aerial bombardment that destroyed a school bus, killing 40 children.

Saudi Arabia declared the earlier attack an appropriate military strike …

The charity Save the Children has estimated that an average of 140 children have been killed every day since Saudi Arabia and the UAE began their bombing campaign … in Yemen.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reports from neighbouring Djibouti.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Saudi Arabia‘s royal feud grows with king set to remove son as crown prince

TENSIONS within the Saudi royal family continued to escalate yesterday amid reports that King Salman is seeking to remove his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince of the despotic Gulf state. …

King Salman has blocked the sale of 5 per cent of the Saudi state oil company Aramco, a deal which was central to Prince Mohammed’s plans for the kingdom to diversify its economy and become less reliant on oil revenue.

The king’s cancellation of the “Vision 2030” project has exposed deep divisions in the Saudi ruling class over the country’s future.

Prince Mohammed is seen as a central figure in the Saudi-led coalition’s three-year bombing campaign in Yemen, which has claimed at least 10,000 lives.

Global condemnation followed a recent attack on a school bus that killed at least 40 children. The United Nations launched a war crimes investigation and there were calls for the international community to stop providing arms to Saudi Arabia.

Other reports suggest that King Salman’s brother Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz is considering going into self-imposed exile after criticising the war on Yemen earlier this week.

Speaking outside his London home, the prince told protesters not to blame the entire Saudi royal family for the devastation in the Middle East’s poorest country.

“There are certain individuals who are responsible. Don’t blame anyone else”, he said.

When pressed on who was to blame, he pointed the finger at “the king and the crown prince and others in the state”, adding: “In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow.”

SAUDI ELITE COOL ON MBS Members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king, amid an international uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [Reuters]

Dutch public land closed for royal family hunting


This 2014 video is called Wild boar at Kroondomein het Loo.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Royal domain Het Loo [in the Veluwe region] will be closed to the public again this year from mid-September to the end of December. The nature reserve closes mostly so that members of the royal family can hunt, reports regional broadcaster Omroep Gelderland.

A majority of parliament is opposed to the closure. In April, the House adopted a proposal stating that the estate should remain open throughout the year. But Minister Schouten said that she was unable to implement that proposal. The king himself is the one who manages the royal domain and he can do so at his own discretion.

The Party for the Animals has been trying to prevent closure in the fall for years. The party thinks that the park should not be closed, because the late Queen Wilhelmina donated the park to the Dutch people in 1959. The fact that hunting at the site will probably be impossible if the crown domain remains open also plays an important role.

So, Het Loo is called a royal domain, but is in fact property of the Dutch government; which pays for its management with taxpayers’ money. “So, public property, but the public is not welcome”, a Wiesel village resident said.

This 11 September 2016 video shows a demonstration by the Apeldoorn branch of the Party for the Animals on bicycles against closing Het Loo to the public to facilitate royal hunting.

When we were at Het Loo last year, most parts were inaccessible as well.

Rapper Valtònyc, extradited to Spain for rapping?


This March 2018 Spanish rap music video by Valtònyc is a song critical of the Spanish monarchy.

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Pursuit of rapper Valtònyc reveals widespread censorship in Spain

26 July 2018

A Belgian court provisionally released rapper Josep Miquel Beltrán (stage name Valtònyc) pending its decision on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Spain. The rapper fled Spain in May to avoid a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence after being convicted of glorifying terrorism, insulting the monarchy, and issuing threats in songs posted on YouTube and other internet platforms.

Valtònyc’s offending lyrics … [were] referring to corrupt politicians and the monarchy.

Valtònyc has defended his songs saying, “Calling me a terrorist is nonsense … My songs don’t hurt anyone, I haven’t killed anyone. I rap about things that happen, but I’m not a participant.” He invoked freedom of expression in his defense, describing the very nature of rap lyrics as “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic.”

Valtònyc is widely supported among Spanish youth. In April, a group of Spanish rap artists recorded a video in support of free speech and the rapper, and opposed to the royal Bourbon dynasty under the title “Los Borbones son unos Ladrones” (The Bourbons are Thieves).

This April 2018 Spanish music video is called Los Borbones son unos Ladrones VIDEO (feat. Frank T, Sara Hebe, Elphomega, Rapsusklei…).

The unrelenting pursuit of Valtònyc is further evidence of the growing assault on free speech and democratic rights in Spain and throughout Europe.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most high-profile victim of the EAW. He was first arrested in London in December 2010 under its anti-democratic provisions to answer trumped up “questions” of sexual misconduct in Sweden.

Assange is no longer any sort of suspect in Sweden. However, the Trump administration wants Britain to extradite him to the USA for revealing war crimes which they call ‘espionage’.

In 2017, an EAW was issued by Spain against ousted Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont. It has subsequently been dropped.

Dropped because Germany did want to extradite Puigdemont, but not for ‘rebellion’ which is not a crime in Germany.

Esteban Beltrán, the director of Amnesty International Spain has stated, “Sending rappers to jail for song lyrics and outlawing political satire demonstrates how narrow the boundaries of acceptable online speech have become in Spain.”

“People should not face criminal prosecution simply for saying, tweeting or singing something that might be distasteful or shocking. Spain’s broad and vaguely-worded law is resulting in the silencing of free speech and the crushing of artistic expression.”

“Spain is emblematic of a disturbing trend which has seen states across Europe unduly restricting expression on the pretext of national security and stripping away rights under the guise of defending them.”

Following Valtònyc’s sentencing and before it was installed in government in June, the Socialist Party (PSOE) together with the … Podemos [party] both used it to attack the Popular Party (PP). PSOE Secretary General Pedro Sanchez, now Prime Minister, called for “freedom in artistic expression” and tweeted, “Bad taste cannot be punished with jail … That a rapper enters prison is a very bad symptom on the state of our democracy.”

Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias declared that a clear “regression in regards to civil liberties” was taking place adding, “It seems that criminal law is applied to persecute dissidents while the corrupt ones are let off scot-free.”

However, since coming to power with the help of Podemos, the PSOE has remained completely silent. So too has the Attorney General’s office, which was used by the previous PP government to intervene in all manner of right-wing political operations, most recently in the Catalan independence campaign firing off criminal complaints to the courts within hours of actions by the separatists.

Instead, both Podemos and the PSOE have directed their attention to “reform” of the Citizens Security Law, also known as the Gag Law, which was used against Valtònyc. The law, passed by the PP in 2015 under the all-encompassing pretext of “fighting against terrorism”, limits freedom of speech, prohibits mass gatherings and imposes fines for protesting and making comments on social media.

Since it was passed three years ago, there have been a huge number of prosecutions. Some 48,000 fines have been imposed solely on the basis of article 37.4—“disrespect and lack of due consideration to the State Security Forces”.

Where once Podemos called for the Gag Law to be abolished, it now pleads with the PSOE to “remove the most negative aspects.” Podemos could have conditioned its support for the new minority PSOE government on the repeal of the Gag Law, but instead declared the PSOE would be installed with their help with “no preconditions.”

Valtònyc was also found guilty of defaming the monarchy under articles 490 and 491 of the Penal Code dealing with “Crimes against the Crown”, which includes the whole Royal Family, past and present and can result in sentences of up to two years. Some 29 people have been charged between 2007 and 2016.

It was the PSOE which re-inserted the articles into the Penal code in 1995 and it has resisted all attempts to amend or remove them. Last March, it opposed attempts by the Catalan separatist party ERC to revoke them in the Spanish parliament, declaring they “go far beyond the freedom of expression and enter the field of institutional respect.”

The PSOE also supported the “praising of terrorism” law, which was introduced into the Penal Code by the PP government in 2000 and strengthened in 2015. It was passed under the pretext of fighting the terrorism of the Basque petty-bourgeois armed group ETA [Euskadi Ta Askatasuna—Basque Homeland and Freedom]. However, whilst there were 33 sentences between 2004 and 2011 under this law, after ETA announced it was ceasing its armed struggle in 2011 the number of sentences has multiplied by four. From 2011 to 2017, there have been 121 cases.

The most notorious case under “praising of terrorism” was against two puppeteers for a performance in Madrid denouncing the Gag Law. César Strawberry, lead singer of the group Def Con Dos, was sentenced to a year in prison last year for tweeting jokes about ETA and giving the king “a cake-bomb” for his birthday.

Cassandra Vera, a 22-year old student, also received a one-year suspended jail sentence last year for “humiliating” the victims of terrorism by making jokes on Twitter about the killing of [Admiral] Luis Carrero Blanco, the right-hand man of Spanish dictator and mass murderer Francisco Franco. Referring to his assassination over 40 years ago by an ETA bomb, which blew his car 20 metres into the air, Vera joked, “Not only did ETA have a policy about official cars, they also had a space programme.” The sentence resulted in the loss of her university scholarship and disqualified her from employment in the public sector for seven years.

Since the start of the year, other censorship and attacks on free speech include:

In numerous articles, the WSWS has warned that the Spanish ruling class has been organising the forces of the state to be used, not in “a war against terror”, but for domestic repression under conditions of growing inequality.

We have explained how the Gag Law heralded a new stage in the development of sweeping police-state powers aimed at prevent mass opposition organised through social networks outside of the control of the main parties.

Spanish king ‘insulted’, rapper flees to Belgium


In this tweet, with its photo from Belgium, Spanish rapper Josep Valtònyc said (translated):

Today is a great day. Spain no longer plays in the World Cup but I’m still in the quarterfinals. Press conference in Brussels today at 5pm commenting on the match and key moves. [Spanish sports journalist Tomàs] Roncero, do not cry.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The rapper Valtònyc, who was convicted of lèse majesté in Spain, reported yesterday to the Belgian judiciary in Ghent. Spain has submitted an extradition request to Belgium. Valtònyc may await the decision in freedom, provided that he remains in Belgium.

José Miquel Arenas Beltrán, as the 24-year-old rapper is called really, is the first artist since the fall of dictator Franco in 1975 who was convicted of lèse majesté. At the end of May he had to start a prison sentence of 3.5 years because of insulting the Spanish crown

Valtònyc fled after his conviction. He wrote on Twitter that “disobedience is an obligation towards this fascist state“. …

Puigdemont

At a press conference, recorded by the El Mundo newspaper, Valtònyc said yesterday that he was inspired by the Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont. He fled to Belgium after the organization of an … independence referendum and now awaits an extradition request in Germany. Puigdemont expressed sympathy for Valtònyc’s situation.

The rapper said yesterday that he does not regret his lyrics. He also says he is not afraid of extradition. “I am not in danger, I have not done anything wrong. Here (in Belgium), they sing against the king and nothing happens. Spain is an exception in that respect. What happens there is not normal.”