Lesser sexual assault sentences for five men spark protests throughout Spain

Women’s rights groups protested today after a court in northern Spain sentenced five men to nine years each in prison for the lesser crime of 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 in live television broadcasts from the gates of the Navarra provincial court. Protests are taking place across Spain today.

The five members of “La Manada” — or “The Pack,” after the nickname the group gave themselves— were found guilty of sexual abuse, which doesn’t 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 today chose the lesser sexual abuse charge in contrast to the more severe charge prosecutors sought along harsher sentences of more than 22 years in prison each.

But the court agreed there was no consent because defendants were in a position of “superiority that curtailed the victim’s freedom.”

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

Both the prosecution and the defense announced later they would appeal the decision.

The five men, all Spanish citizens between 27 and 30, were friends who traveled 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 behavior after the incident, causing outrage among women’s rights groups who said the victim was being judged for her behavior rather than the attackers. The defense then withdrew the report.

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

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

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