Jesús García 20/2/2021
Image: Pablo Hasél. LUIS GRAÑENA
When police entered the room of the flat where Pablo Rivadulla Duró (32 years old) lived with his parents, in Lleida, they found a book by Che Guevara and a T-shirt of the Red Army Fraction (RAF), the far-left terrorist group that put West Germany on the ropes in the 1970s. The agents who arrested the rapper 10 years ago also located the folders where Rivadulla kept the lyrics of his poems and songs.
In the life of Pablo Hasél – an artistic name taken from the character of an Arab tale that assassinated kings – creation and politics, music and struggle go hand in hand. A pro-Soviet communist, an untimely paladin of the socialist revolution, he fell in love with rap because it “allowed him to say many things, but with rage.” “I wanted to be in the trenches of revolutionary art,” he explains in one of the extensive interviews he has granted since that arrest that in 2014 earned him a first conviction for exalting terrorism.
Hasel’s songs have always moved within the porous limits of freedom of expression, a fundamental right of which he has now, with his entry into prison, become a leader. Although his opinion in this field is ambivalent. He applauds the fact that in the US groups “talk about killing cops and even the president and nothing ever happens to them” and censures bachata singer Romeo Santos because his “ultra-masculine” lyrics, he says, exalt sexual assault.
Before his first arrest, Hasél was relatively unknown: his songs were heard in underground and minority circles of political rap and his geographical horizon did not go beyond Lleida. He posted songs on YouTube with phrases such as “I hope the Grapo return”, “gora ETA”, “he deserves Patxi López’s car to explode” and “I don’t mind your shot in the back of the neck, pepero”. The court held that these expressions were a crime of hatred, not freedom of expression. And he sentenced him to two years in prison. Because it was a short sentence and he had no background, he dodged prison.
Far from deterring him, that stumble upon justice anchored him in his convictions and, in spite of his declared shyness, raised him to popularity. He felt (and still feels) called to a mission: to awaken the citizen consciousness and “bring down the capitalist dictatorship,” he says in disused Marxist language. A song entitled Juan Carlos el Bobón – in which he presents the emeritus king as a “mafia boss” and a “puter” – and 64 tweets – in which he praises the trajectory of members of the Grapo and ETA – led him to new to the bench of the National High Court. The initial sentence for exaltation of terrorism was two years, but was eventually reduced to nine months. For insults to the Crown and state institutions, he was also fined 38,000 euros. As he did not pay it – he refused to do so – this fine extends his sentence to two years and four months. Hasél denounces that he has been convicted of “explaining objective facts”, in reference to the corruption scandals that affect John Charles I.
The son of a businessman who chaired the Lleida Sports Union, Hasél moved as a teenager through the city’s anti-system circles. He was stuck in all the troubles, City Hall sources recall, stressing that his commitment is not presumptuous: Hasel is convinced of what he is doing. Tent has been seen supporting a group for the right to housing in the run-down neighborhood of Mariola in Lleida as in protests against the ruling of the process. He unleashed his rage against the socialist mayor Àngel Ros: “You deserve a shot, I’ll stab you”, he wrote, among other things, in 2014, a threat that earned him a fine of 540 euros. The violent burden of these letters, a judge concluded, is not protected by freedom of expression.
His court record is not limited to crimes of opinion, although he is always linked to insatiable activism. He has three more sentences: for pushing and throwing window cleaners at a TV3 camera during the eviction of a lock up at the University of Lleida, for occupying a PSC headquarters in a protest and for coercing a witness (whom he called “informer of the police ”) in a trial. Amid the protests demanding his release, the Lleida High Court confirmed this last sentence, of two and a half years, this Thursday.
But what initially brought him to prison are his tweets praising terrorists and his songs against the former monarch. The order to enter the prison, a brief imprisonment in the Rectorate of the University of Lleida and his subsequent arrest, executed by the Mossos, have catapulted him to fame. He sees himself as a victim of a “state operation” because he has “made people think.” “Sooner or later, we will return the wafers,” he said, in a prophetic tone, after learning of his conviction: demonstrations to demand his freedom have taken place, often with riots, in several Spanish cities. From his cell in the Ponent prison, where he says he is being treated “correctly”, Hasél feels strong and satisfied with the popular response, according to his lawyer, Diego Herchhoren, who defines him as a good friend, but a bad customer ”.
Rap and rage have lined up. Hasel only needs revolution.