NAVARRA’S Superior Court of Justice has upheld a previous sentence which cleared five men of rape and convicted them of the lesser offence of sexual assault, sparking a feminist outcry.
Justices in the court voted three to two to uphold sentences of nine years in prison for members of the self-styled ‘La Manada’ (Wolf pack) gang. The allegations date back to July 2016 and concern an 18-year-old woman.
The court upheld the earlier ruling for Jose Prenda, Angel Boz, Antonio Guerrero, Alfonso Cabezuelo and Jesus Dominguez because no violence or intimidation was found to have been used.
The two judges who voted against stated in their dissenting opinion that evidence showed the place where the woman was taken to be assaulted, an apartment building basement, was intimidating.
The court ruled the woman had not given the five defendants, all in their 20s, consent when they met her in Pamplona at the Running of the Bulls festival.
The court stated in its ruling the defendants had “humiliated” the woman when they led her into the basement.
They then assaulted her while some filmed the incident on a mobile phone, with the footage as evidence in the trial. The courts also heard the defendants were members of a Whatsapp messaging group which they called La Manada.
The woman was later found outside the flats by a passing couple and she was taken to report the assault to the police.
“All the accused knew or should have understood the situation in which the young woman found herself, a narrow and oppressive place which hindered her reaction and defence,” the court stated.
“The defendants exercised intimidation,” the dissenting opinion stated. It added the defendants should have been sentenced to 14 years and three months in prison.
The defendants will be able to appeal against their sentences in Spain’s Supreme Court.
The defendants were first jailed by Navarra’s Provincial Court in April. That court’s decision to sentence them for sexual assault rather than rape sparked protests in cities across Spain and Europe.
Judges said it was due to there being no evidence violence or intimidation was used, while feminist groups argued it was evidence of institutionalised sexism in Spain’s justice system.
Spanish law states that a sexual assault qualifies as rape if violence or intimidation is used to subdue the victim. Politicians have since pledged to change the law in the wake of April’s ruling.