Court turns down prayer to extradite fugitive rapper

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A court in Belgium has rejected a request by the Spanish authorities to extradite a fugitive rapper sentenced to jail for allegedly praising terrorism in his songs.

José Miguel Arenas Beltran better known as “Valtonyc” fled to Belgium in 2018 after being handed a three-and-a-half year jail term on charges of glorifying terror, insulting the king and making threats in his lyrics.

The rapper’s lawyer Simon Bekaert wrote on Twitter that the ruling was a victory after more than 3 years of legal wrangling, adding that today is “a good day for music and freedom of expression.”

Bekaert said the appeals court in the city of Ghent had ruled that the offences were not a crime under Belgian law.

The 28-year-old rapper said he was “finally free and happy” after having been subject to regular police checks as he battled against a European arrest warrant.

“I’m not a terrorist and the court has proved me right,” he said.

Beltran’s lyrics have divided opinion in Spain, with some saying his words would not land him in jail in any other democracy, while others stress that free speech has its limits.

The case is one of a number that has put pressure on the Spanish authorities to ease harsh punishments for alleged “crimes of expression”.