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Thousands Protest Across Spain After 5 Men Are Cleared Of Gang Rape

Sunday 29 April 2018, by siawi3


04/29/2018 01:27 am ET

Thousands Protest Across Spain After 5 Men Are Cleared Of Gang Rape

The group is known as the “wolf pack,” named after a WhatsApp chat where they bragged about the assault.

By Carla Herreria

Pacific Press via Getty Images:
Droves of protesters called for justice after a court convicted the “Wolf Pack” of sexual abuse instead of rape after they allegedly gang-raped a woman during the annual bull-running festival.

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets in cities across Spain after a court failed to convict a group of men for the gang rape of an 18-year-old girl during the Running of the Bulls festival in 2016.

Instead of convicting the five men of rape on Thursday, a three-judge panel in Pamplona in northern Spain found the men guilty of the lesser crime of “continuous sexual abuse,” according to CNN. Unlike a rape charge, sexual abuse charges indicate that violence or intimidation were not involved in the assault.

The judges’ verdict prompted demonstrators to protest outside of the Pamplona courthouse in droves, calling the sexual abuse conviction unjust.

Amnesty International’s Spanish chapter said the judges’ ruling makes women responsible for their rapists.

“The absence of legal recognition that sexual relations without consent constitutes rape encourages the idea that we as women bear the responsibility to protect ourselves from rape,” the organization wrote on Facebook in Spanish. “These attitudes are dangerous and have to change.”

The attackers have come to be known in Spain as “La Manada,” or the “Wolf Pack,” named after the title of a WhatsApp chat group that included four of the five men. Before the festival, members of the chat group discussed using sedatives on women to rape them, according to The Telegraph.

After the attack, members of the “Wolf Pack” boasted that the men had “f***** a girl between five” and had footage to prove it. CNN reported that one of the men concluded in a text that the festival had been an “amazing trip.”

The assault occurred two years ago during the famous Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. While testifying against the men last year, the victim said the five men, whom she didn’t know, led her through a doorway, gang-raped her, then stole her phone and fled, Public Radio International reported.

Some of the men had filmed part of the assault on their cellphones, resulting in seven videos that had a total of 96 seconds of footage which was viewed during trial.

The woman was later found crying on a bench, according to The Guardian. She filed a report with police and the five men were arrested the next day.

Gari Garaialde via Getty Images:
Demonstrators chant and hold banners that read, “it is not abuse, it is assault” during a demonstration after the verdict was reached.

The assault dominated local media for two years, sparking in the country a Spanish version of the Me Too movement against violence on women.

After the verdict was handed down, demonstrators protested outside of the Pamplona courthouse, as well as in the cities of Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid.

The attackers, José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza, were sentenced to nine years in prison, five years’ probation and were ordered to pay €10,000 to the victim, the Guardian reported.

Over the years, Pamplona’s bull festival has been plagued with sexual assaults on women, with reports ranging from women being groped to more violent assaults including rape. In 2015, similar protests were held after a 19-year-old British woman was reportedly assaulted in a bathroom by a group of men during the festival. She was eventually rescued by her friends.

Days before the “Wolf Pack’s” 2016 assault, Pamplona’s city council added to the festival’s official rulebook a warning against “sexual assaults against women,” according to the Telegraph.

“Sexist attacks against women of any age and in all circumstances will be investigated and punished,” Pamplona Mayor Joseba Asiron said at the time, the British newspaper reported.

“San Fermín must be a festival which women can enjoy freely, safely and with complete equality.”

Both the state prosecutors and the defendants’ attorney in the “Wolf Pack’s” case said they would appeal the judges’ ruling.

Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, said on Friday that they would review laws against sexual crimes and update them if necessary, according to CNN.

“The government has been, is and always will be with the victims,” he said.

But after Thursdays’ ruling, it appears as though protesters in Spain would disagree.

See photos of the country-wide protests here.



Protests continue for third day over Pamplona gang rape acquittal

Up to 35,000 people march in Spanish city after five men were convicted of lesser offence of sexual abuse of 18-year-old woman

Staff and agencies

Sun 29 Apr 2018 06.44 BST

Protesters return to the streets in Pamplona three days after five men were cleared of raping a teenager. Photograph: Xabier Lertxundi/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people have marched in northern Spain for a third consecutive day to protest against the acquittal of five men of gang rape.

Police in Pamplona estimated up to 35,000 people took part in a demonstration on Saturday, rallying under the slogan, “it’s not sexual abuse, it’s rape”. Thousands of women marched together with their hands raised at the protest, which police said passed off peacefully.

An 18-year-old woman was attacked during the city’s bull-running festival in 2016, prompting a national outcry.

The five men, who called themselves la manada or “the wolf pack” in their WhatsApp group, were on Thursday acquitted of sexual assault, which includes rape, and sentenced to nine years for the lesser offence of sexual abuse. Lawyers say the victim is appealing.

Demonstrators have filled streets across the country since the court ruling, leading Spain’s conservative government to say it will consider changing rape laws.

Spanish prosecutors to appeal against Pamplona gang rape verdict

The court’s decision has also prompted thousands of women to share their experiences of abuse on Twitter under the hashtag #cuentalo, Spanish for “tell it”.

Ana Botín, the head of Santander, one of Spain’s biggest banks, tweeted the ruling was “a step back for women’s security”, while former judge Manuela Carmena, now the Madrid mayor, tweeted it “does not meet women’s demand for justice”. Carmena called for the country’s supreme court to overturn it.

An online petition calling for the disqualification of the judges who passed the sentence gathered more than 1.2m signatures by Saturday.

The issue also hogged the headlines of newspapers all around the country. Under Spain’s criminal code, evidence of violence or intimidation must exist for the offence of rape to be proved, but that was a legal nuance that was “not always easy to establish,” top-selling daily El País wrote in an editorial.

It “leads to the painful question of just how much a person needs to fight to avoid being raped without risking getting killed, and still get recognised as a victim of a serious attack against sexual freedom while ensuring that the perpetrators do not enjoy impunity,” the newspaper said.

Protest Pamplona
Thousands people crowd the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona on Saturday. Photograph: Alvaro Barrientos/AP

And a community of 16 Carmelite nuns in the Hondarribia monastery in the Basque country condemned the court ruling on Facebook.

“We live cloistered away, wearing a habit that reaches down to our ankles, we don’t go out in the evening, we don’t go to parties, we don’t drink alcohol and we’ve undertaken a vow of chastity,” the nuns said.

“And because that’s our free choice, we will defend with all the means at our disposal ... the right of all woman to FREELY do the opposite, without them being judged, raped, threatened, killed or humiliated.”

State prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling.

Adriana Lastra, a top official with Spain’s main opposition Socialist party, said the court ruling was “disgraceful”.

“It’s the product of a patriarchal and macho culture,” she said.

Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report.