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Spain's Supreme Court finds five men guilty of rape after overruling previous sexual assault guilty verdict

The earlier verdict – guilty on sexual assault charges – led to public outcry and protest in the country.

Protestors outside Spain's Supreme Court following the verdict.
Protestors outside Spain's Supreme Court following the verdict.
Image: AP/PA Images

A GROUP OF five men who were found guilty of sexual assault have now been found guilty of gang rape, and handed and extended prison sentence, by Spain’s Supreme Court. 

The men were convicted on the charge of sexual assault in 2017 and handed a nine-year sentence. 

The public prosecutor, the victim, and regional authorities appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for a rape conviction and longer sentences while the men’s lawyers wanted them acquitted, arguing that the woman consented.

They were today handed a 15-year sentence after the Supreme Court ruled the men were guilty of rape.

The case had led to a public outcry at the time over the sentence and charge on which they were convicted. 

The judges heard both sides’ arguments in a televised session Friday and gave their verdict after just two hours.

They said that, in accordance with legal precedent, the attack could be classified as rape, which was aggravated by being performed in a group.

The victim didn’t consent to the acts, the judges said, and was subjected to 10 acts of sexual aggression in “a genuinely intimidating scene”.

They found that the men also made videos of their attack.

Prosecutors said the men boasted about the 2016 attack during Pamplona’s San Fermin festival on a WhatsApp group named “La Manada” or “The Animal Pack”.

The case brought widespread criticism from women’s groups after the first court agreed to study a defense detective’s report on the woman’s behavior after the incident, which some said made it appear the victim was on trial.

Viviana Waisman, president of the international nonprofit organization Women’s Link Worldwide, which pursues social change through the law, welcomed the ruling, saying courts too often doubt the victims and fail to protect them.

She said Friday’s decision “sends a clear message that judges must apply the law … and when victims of sexual violence come forth they must be believed, not questioned”. 

With reporting from Associated Press

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