The case of a group sex attack on a teenage woman that shocked Spain has reached the Supreme Court, where prosecutors are calling for the men’s jail terms to be doubled.
The five men known as the “wolf pack” got nine years in jail when they were cleared of gang rape but convicted of the lesser charge of sexual abuse.
Prosecutors have called on the court to upgrade the conviction to rape.
The attack prompted Spain to announce a review of its rape laws.
All five are on provisional release until the Supreme Court decides on their case. Prosecutors will need to prove that intimidation or violence was used for the sentence to be changed.
What did they do?
In July 2016, when the city of Pamplona was holding its traditional San Fermin bull-running festival, the 18-year-old woman was dragged into the hallway of a residential building. The five men removed her clothes and had unprotected sex with her.
Some of them filmed it on their phones. The woman’s phone was also stolen and she was found reportedly in a distraught state.
They sent the video around their WhatsApp chat group, called “La manada” (the wolf pack), and the video has since become central to the question of whether they raped the woman or sexually abused her.
A police report said she had kept her eyes closed at all times, showing a “passive or neutral” expression throughout.
What did judges decide?
In April 2018, a court in Navarra jailed the men for nine years each for sexual abuse but acquitted them of the graver charge of sexual assault, the equivalent of rape under existing Spanish law.
The ruling was based on a decision that the woman had not faced violence or intimidation, but had been abused. Two months later, the same regional court ordered the men’s provisional release pending appeal as they were not deemed a flight risk.
The verdict prompted widespread demonstrations from rights groups and politicians who were incredulous that a prolonged sexual assault involving intercourse by five men could be anything other than rape.
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But the Supreme Court of Navarra upheld that conviction, agreeing there had been no sexual assault.
They decided the woman had not given consent to sex and that the men had used their undue position of superiority to carry out sexual abuse.
Two of the five judges decided the men had used intimidation to carry out a “continuous offence of sexual assault”, but they were outvoted.
What will the Supreme Court decide?
Prosecutors on Friday asked the Supreme Court to upgrade the conviction to sexual assault, arguing that the “proven facts constitute a continuous crime of rape” because “sufficient intimidating force” was used against the victim.
They want the nine-year jail terms doubled to 18.
“You cannot demand a dangerously heroic stand from victims,” prosecutor Isabel Rodríguez was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, defence lawyers are seeking the acquittal of the men, José Ángel Prenda, Jesús Escudero, Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero and Ángel Boza. They argued on Friday there was no intimidation of any sort and that the woman had only complained of assault when she found out her mobile phone had been taken.
The politically charged case has already prompted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to push for a reform of Spain’s rape laws based on a woman giving explicit consent to sex.
Spain women: Top court decides if Wolf Pack gang were rapists