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Spanish court upholds disputed sex abuse gang sentence

MADRID: A Spanish court on Wednesday upheld a disputed nine-year jail term for five men who sexually abused a woman, despite two out of five judges believing the gang committed rape and calling for tougher sentences.

The men were accused of raping the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7, 2016, at the start of the popular week-long San Fermin bull-running festival.

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”.

In April, they were handed nine years each in jail for sexual abuse but judges acquitted them of the more serious offence of sexual assault, ruling there had been no violence or intimidation as the victim did not resist or fight back.

Both parties appealed the sentence, which sparked furious, nationwide protests.

On Wednesday, the high court of the northern Navarra region upheld the ruling. It said there had been no proof of violence, and that it was too difficult to discern whether intimidation had taken place given the lack of obvious show of force or threats towards the victim.

Under Spanish law — which the government is now considering reforming — there has to be evidence of violence or intimidation for an offence to be classified as a sexual assault.

But two out of five of the male judges disagreed, the statement said. They called the assault “an act of intimidation and coercion created by all of them, laying a trap for the victim given the near zero possibility she had of escaping.”

The two judges said it was rape based also on the “degrading” acts inflicted on the victim and the fact that she was left on the ground “half naked”, while one of the offenders grabbed her mobile and took out the memory cards.

The two judges concluded each of the men should have been jailed for 14 years, three months and one day. Prosecutors had asked for prison terms of 22 years and 10 months.

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