MADRID: Spain’s Supreme Court Friday found five men who called themselves “The Pack” guilty of gang raping a young woman, overturning previous convictions for the lesser offence of sexual abuse in a case that shook the country.
The Madrid-based tribunal sentenced each defendant to 15 years in prison – up from nine years each – overriding two previous rulings in the case that had sparked mass protests in Spain.
By late afternoon, all five had been detained, according to police.
“The factual account describes a genuine scenario of intimidation in which the victim never consents to the sexual acts performed by the accused,” the court ruled.
The victim found herself in “a situation of intimidation that made her adopt an attitude of submission, doing what the perpetrators told her to do.”
The panel of five judges, including two women, said the victim had experienced “at least 10 sexual assaults with oral, vaginal and anal penetration.”
Minutes after meeting her, the five men, aged 24 to 27, raped the drunk woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona in July 2016 at the start of the popular San Fermin bull-running festival.
They left her half-naked in the doorway. One of them also stole her mobile phone.
The five filmed the incident with their smartphones and bragged about it on WhatsApp where they referred to themselves as “La Manada,” or “The Pack”.
The footage they shared on WhatsApp was used against them in court but also against the victim to illustrate her alleged passivity during the act.
In April 2018, the men were each sentenced to nine years in jail for sexual abuse but judges acquitted them of the more serious offence of rape.
It was decided there had been no violence or intimidation – necessary for a rape conviction in Spain – and that the victim did not resist or fight back.
One of the three judges had argued that the men should be fully acquitted.
That decision – and the defendants’ subsequent release on bail – triggered nationwide protests.
“If you resist they kill you, if you don’t resist you consent. What to do?” read one sign at a protest.
Following the initial verdict, the Spanish government announced plans to reform the criminal code to stipulate that a woman must give her explicit consent for sex.
“Only yes is yes,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter, reacting to the latest ruling.
“Spain continues to move forward in the protection of women’s rights and freedoms and won’t stop.”
Not a ‘fair trial’
The five defendants, all from the southern city of Seville, were not called to the stand on Friday.
Prosecutors argued for an 18-year jail sentence for each of the accused. They also demanded an extra two years for the mobile thief – which the judges accepted.
Defence lawyer Agustin Martinez asserted that the sex had been consensual and called for his clients to be absolved.
He said they could not have realised she was not consenting as she did not shout or resist.
She did not make “any kind of gesture of protest”.
“We haven’t had a fair trial,” he added, blaming media, social and political “pressure”.
Speaking to AFP after the ruling, Martinez said 15 years in prison was “an absolute absurdity and an outrage”.
About 100 women gathered outside the Supreme Court welcomed the ruling with chants of: “The fight is not in vain”, and “More education, less porn on social networks!”
“This verdict is very important because it creates precedent: we can no longer blame the victim for not fighting their aggressor,” one of the group, 59-year-old Sera Sanchez, told AFP.
A year ago, countless teenaged girls took to the streets across Spain with cries of “I believe you!” in support of the victim, followed by a day-long women’s strike, a first observed by women around the country to denounce sexual violence.