Sixth night of violence in Barcelona amid protests over arrest of rapper

Violence erupted on the streets of Barcelona on Sunday for the sixth day in a row as protesters gathered to condemn the jailing of controversial rapper Pablo Hasel.

Hasel, 33, was detained last Tuesday at the University of Lleida following a tense 24-hour stand-off with anti-riot police.

He had fled to the college in a last-ditch bid to avoid a nine-month prison term for glorifying terrorist violence and slandering the monarchy in his music and in posts on social media.

Hasel was sentenced under the 2015 Public Security Law, brought in by Spain’s previous conservative government. Supporters of Mr Hasel and critics of the law say it suppresses free speech.

Spain’s current leftwing coalition government has said it will review the law following a series of controversial arrests.

Sunday’s demonstrations started peacefully but descended into ugly scenes as darkness fell, with youths launching rocks, bottles, firecrackers and bins at officers in several areas of the Catalonia capital.

Five people were arrested for robbing shops and a police officer was injured, according to a Twitter post by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan regional police force. About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in the city, local police said.

Protesters had looted shops on Saturday on Barcelona’s most prestigious shopping street, Passeig de Gracia, while also smashing windows in the Palau de la Musica concert hall.

Five nights of trashed shops and burned containers has caused 900,000 euros ($1.09 million) in damages in Barcelona, the city council said.

“Apart from the economic damage, we have suffered damage to the image of Barcelona as a welcoming and peaceful city,” Luis Sans, president of the Association of Friends of Passeig de Gracia, told El Pais newspaper.

More than 95 people have been arrested across Catalonia and in other Spanish cities since Hasel was arrested and jailed.

One woman lost an eye during clashes in Barcelona last week, triggering calls from politicians to investigate police tactics.

Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem was among artists, celebrities and politicians who called for a change in the law covering freedom of expression.

The Spanish government said last week it would scrap prison sentences for offences involving cases of freedom of speech.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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