In Spain: Protests As Five Men Cleared Of Rape Charges
Protests have erupted across Spain following a court's decision to clear five men of rape charges. The men, who have been dubbed 'La Manada' or 'The Wolf Pack' by Spanish media are accused of gang raping an 18-year-old woman during the 2016 San Fermin running of the bulls festival.
The men have been convicted on the lesser charge of sexual abuse, and sentenced to nine years in prison. Prosecutors had sought jail sentences of more than 20 years. Under Spanish law, charges of sexual abuse indicate a lack of aggression or intimidation. The men are also being ordered to pay about $60,000 to the woman.
The verdict sparked immediate protest outside of the Pamplona courthouse in northern Spain. More protests rippled across the country, including in the capital Madrid and Bilbao in the northern Basque region.
Part of the crime was apparently recorded on the defendants' phones. Roughly a minute and a half of cell phone footage shows two of the men leading the woman underneath an apartment building. The group then proceeds to disrobe and have unprotected sex with the woman, according to the police report.
In court, the defense argued that the footage showed the woman's eyes shut during the attack and that was a sign of consent. The prosecution shot back that the woman was too terrified to speak.
The verdict ends five months of jury deliberation. The presiding judge has been criticized for his handling of the case -- allowing into evidence a report by a private investigator about the woman's private life. The report was later withdrawn. The judge also barred submission of texts into evidence among the men. The name "Wolf Pack" is a reference of the title of their group chat on WhatsApp. The messages in the app apparently discussed plans to rape women at the festival, which the prosecution argues would have shown premeditation.
The five men are originally from Seville and in their 20s. One of the men admitted to stealing the woman's phone after the incident.
News of the gang rape sparked widespread anger over reports of increased sexual attacks at the running of the bulls festival. According to the BBC, the incident is considered a #metoo movement for Spain, supporters of the woman rallied, adopting a slogan Yo te creo, or I believe you.
Spain's National Police have also expressed support for the woman, saying on Twitter "No is No" a dozen times, and admonishing violence, aggression and abuse.
The regional government of Navarra, where the verdict was announced, has spoken out against the ruling, and says it is vowing to appeal the case,and that it "does not share" the opinion of the court.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.