Tuesday 14 August 2018

Protests held across Spain after five men cleared of Pamplona 'gang rape'

Protesters break through a police line after a nine-year sentence was given to five men accused of the multiple rape of a woman during Pamplona's San Fermin festival in 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
Protesters break through a police line after a nine-year sentence was given to five men accused of the multiple rape of a woman during Pamplona's San Fermin festival in 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Protests have erupted across Spain after five men were jailed for nine years each for sexual abuse in what activists saw as a gang rape during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona.

"It's not abuse, it's rape!" shouted protesters from the gates of the Navarra provincial court when the ruling was announced.

Police stopped the crowd from advancing toward the entrance to the court, with some angry demonstrators shoving officers.

Thousands of protesters gathered hours later in central Pamplona and most of Spain's major cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Bilbao, Valencia and Zaragoza.

Protesters gather outside the High Court of Navarra behind a banner reading
Protesters gather outside the High Court of Navarra behind a banner reading "No is No! Justice!" While awaiting a verdict on five men accused of the multiple rape of a woman during Pamplona's San Fermin festival in 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent West

Demonstrators shouted slogans like "No is no!" while some waved homemade signs and wore red gloves as a symbol of protest.

The five members of La Manada - or The Pack, after the nickname the group gave themselves - were found guilty of sexual abuse, which does not involve violence or intimidation under Spain's criminal code.

The prosecution had argued that violence was used and the 18-year-old victim did not consent to intercourse.

The court on Thursday chose the lesser sexual abuse charge in contrast to the more severe charge prosecutors sought along with harsher sentences of more than 22 years in prison.

The court agreed there was no consent because the defendants were in a position of "superiority that curtailed the victim's freedom".

One of the three judges in the panel voted in favour of acquitting the defendants, the court said.

Both the prosecution and the defence announced later they would appeal against the decision.

The five men, all Spanish citizens between 27 and 30, were friends who travelled to Pamplona to party during the San Fermin festival in July 2016.

According to testimony at the trial, the men offered to accompany the victim to her car but instead hauled her into a building where they filmed their assault with their smartphones. They then took her mobile phone and left.

The men argued that the young woman had consented to intercourse.

To support the claim, their lawyers produced detectives' reports on the victim's behaviour after the incident, causing outrage among women's rights groups who said the victim was being judged for her behaviour rather than the attackers. The defence then withdrew the report.

In addition to the prison time, the court ruled they should jointly compensate the victim with 50,000 euros and refrain from contacting her for 15 years.

The five have been in pre-trial custody since they were arrested after the incident.

The president of Spain's Feminist Party, Lidia Falcon, told La Sexta television that the ruling means rape in Spain is "practically free" of punishment.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the government "had to respect" the controversial ruling, while adding that authorities must respond to the public uproar.

"I think we have to analyse what we as public authorities must do so that incidents like this don't happen again in our country," she said.

Justice Minister Raphael Catala said that the laws in question date from 1995 and should be reviewed to see if "it is convenient to push for their revision".

Press Association

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