Spain's top court convicts 5 men in gang rape case

22 Juin, 2019, 07:07 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Protesters demonstrate against the earlier verdict of 'La Manada'  gang case outside the Minister of Justice

The woman, who was 18 at the time, and the men, who called themselves the "Wolf Pack", have both appealed to Spain's highest court after a regional court sentenced the gang to nine years each over the lesser charge of sexual abuse.

The public prosecutor, the victim and regional authorities want the men convicted of rape and given much longer prison sentences.

The men carried out the attack in "a genuinely intimidating scenario", the court ruled - current Spanish rape law stipulates that intimidation is key to a rape conviction.

Lawyers for the woman, who was 18 when she was gang-raped in a doorway early in the morning at the 2016 San Fermin festival by the five men who called themselves the "Wolf Pack", argued that shock and fear had stopped her from fighting them.

Viviana Waisman, president of the global nonprofit organization Women's Link Worldwide, which pursues social change through the law, said that courts too often doubt the victims and fail to protect them.

It was decided there had been no violence or intimidation - necessary for a rape conviction in Spain - and that the victim did not resist or fight back. The regional court heard they had shared videos of the incident in a WhatsApp group and joked about it shortly afterwards. They collectively need to give 100,000 euros ($113,190) as compensation to the victim.

By late afternoon, all five had been detained, according to police.

All members of the group had been on provisional release since then pending the Supreme Court decision.

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"Only yes is yes", acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter.

"Spain continues to move forward in the protection of women's rights and freedoms, and won't stop".

Defence lawyer Agustin Martinez argued the sex was consensual and called for his clients to be absolved.

The Supreme Court, whose proceedings were broadcast live on national TV, was initially expected to reach a verdict later on Friday although a court official said that this could potentially be delayed.

But Spain's public prosecutor Isabel Rodriguez agreed that violence and intimidation was used, saying: "You can't ask victims to act in a dangerously heroic way".

A year ago, countless teenaged girls took to the streets across Spain with cries of "I believe you!" in support of the victim, followed by a day-long women's strike, a first observed by women around the country to denounce sexual violence. Thousands brandished banners that read "I believe you sister" and chanted "It's not abuse, it's rape".

The men's release from jail during the appeal process on a legal technicality that no one can be held for more than two years without a definitive sentence further fueled protests calling for tougher punishment of sex crimes. But concern has grown over increased reports of sex attacks and harassment at the event, as well as over the mistreatment of women in general in Spain.

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