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Fugitive Spanish rapper arrested after taking refuge at Catalan university

Fugitive Spanish rapper arrested after taking refuge at Catalan university
Spanish rapper Pablo Duro, known professionally as Pablo Hasel, raises a fist on Tuesday as he is arrested by police at Lleida University in Catalonia, where he took refuge in the building after refusing to report to prison. Photo by Paul de la Calle/EPA-EFE

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Authorities on Tuesday arrested a Spanish rapper who spent a day holed up at a university in Catalonia, purportedly to avoid going to prison over a series of tweets.

Pablo Rivadulla Duro, known by his stage name Pablo Hasel, was told to report to prison by Friday for a conviction involving tweets that officials said glorified terrorism and insulted the Spanish Crown.

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Officials say Duro missed the deadline and took refuge inside Catalonia's Lleida University on Monday, along with dozens of supporters who erected a barricade inside with chairs and desks.

Police entered the building on Tuesday and took him into custody.

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"Long live the struggle," Duro said upon his exit, according to The Guardian. "We will never stop. They will never beat us."

At issue was the prison sentence given Duro for his conviction on expressing support for terrorist organizations, such as the now defunct Basque group ETA and the Marxist GRAPO.

The conviction also said he was guilty of accusing King Felipe VI, and predecessor King Juan Carlos, of several crimes in a series of tweets.

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Spain's highest criminal court ruled in 2018 that Duro's lyrics and comments went beyond the limits of free speech and were expressions of "hatred and attacks on honor."

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Duro, 32, was initially sentenced to two years, but an appellate court later cut the term to nine months. The Supreme Court upheld the decision last year.

The case sparked public debate about freedom of expression and the Spanish government has since announced plans to reform the criminal code to eliminate prison for such offenses.

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The rapper has avoided prison in the past for writing and sharing songs that praised terrorist groups. He was also sentenced in 2016 for assaulting a journalist and attacking a witness at a trial, though those rulings have both been appealed.

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