13:26, June 21 145 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-21 13:26:36
Pamplona court to release sexual abuse gang on bail

The five men jailed for sexually abusing an 18-year-old woman at the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona two years ago are to be released on bail of €6,000, according to reports.

The case, known as the “wolf pack” trial because of the name the men used in their WhatsApp group, caused a national outcry after the defendants were sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual abuse, but acquitted of rape.

The verdict, delivered at the end of April, led to protests across Spain and prompted the then government to announce a review of sexual offences legislation to establish whether such crimes were adequately defined and categorised.

José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza were sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, five years’ probation and ordered to pay €10,000 each to the woman. Guerrero, a Guardia Civil police officer, was fined €900 for stealing her phone after the attack.

On Thursday afternoon, the Spanish news agency Europa Press reported that the provincial court in Pamplona had ruled that the men, who have been in custody since July 2016, could be released on bail while a higher court studied the original sentence.

It apparently ordered them to surrender their passports and report to court three times a week, and banned them from entering the Madrid region, where the victim lives, and from attempting to contact her.

Both prosecutors and defence lawyers are protesting against the nine-year sentences. Under Spanish law, those convicted of a crime cannot be held for more than two years if a final sentence has not been handed down.

The men were found guilty of the “continuous sexual abuse” of the woman in the lobby of a building in the early hours of 7 July 2016. Under Spanish law, sexual abuse differs from rape in that it does not involve violence or intimidation. One of the judges argued that the men should have been cleared of all charges except the phone theft.

The case was widely seen as a cross-examination of the 18-year-old woman rather than the men who attacked her. The proceedings were criticised after the judges accepted into evidence a report compiled by a private detective hired by some of the defendants. The detective had followed the woman over several days and produced photographs of her smiling with friends.

This was used to suggest she had not suffered any lasting trauma, prompting hundreds of women to demonstrate outside court holding signs reading: “We believe you, sister.”

Defence lawyers claimed the woman had consented and had let one of the men kiss her. They also said that 96 seconds of video footage from the men’s phones – showing the woman immobile and with her eyes shut during the attack – constituted proof of consent.

The prosecution said the victim had been too terrified to move.

“The defendants want us to believe that on that night they met an 18-year-old girl, living a normal life, who, after 20 minutes of conversation with people she didn’t know, agreed to group sex involving every type of penetration, sometimes simultaneously, without using a condom,” the prosecutor Elena Sarasate said.

The verdict was criticised by many senior politicians, including Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s socialist party who recently became the prime minister.

“She said NO,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. “We believe you and we’ll keep believing you. If what the ‘wolfpack’ did wasn’t group violence against a defenceless woman, then what do we understand by rape?”

News of the men’s release prompted women’s groups to call protests in cities including Pamplona, Madrid, Zaragoza, San Sebastián and Barcelona on Thursday and Friday.

Laura Berro, the equality and LGBTI councillor at Pamplona’s city council, said the court’s latest verdict was proof of the patriarchal nature of justice.

“It’s shocking,” she tweeted. “But we will not shut up or be paralysed.”



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