Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday found five men who called themselves “The Pack” guilty of gang rape, overturning previous convictions of 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, superseding two previous rulings in the case that sparked mass protests in Spain.
By late afternoon, all five had been detained, according to the 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 court said there were “at least 10 sexual assaults with oral, vaginal and anal penetration.”
Minutes after meeting her, the five 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.
The five filmed the incident with their smartphones and then bragged about it on WhatsApp where they referred to themselves as “La Manada,” or “The Pack”.
The footage they shared on WhatsApp had been used against them in court but also against the victim for her 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 subsequent release on bail of the defendants — sparked 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 earlier 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 defendant, with an extra two for the one who stole the mobile.
The court, on giving each 15 years, added the two extra years to the latter’s sentence.
Defence lawyer Agustin Martinez asserted 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, criticising media, social and political “pressure”.
Speaking to AFP after the ruling, he said 15 years in prison was “an absolute absurdity and an outrage”.