Mass protests are expected across Spain as a group of five men widely known as “The Wolf Pack”, who were convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman, are to be released on bail after just two years in custody.
The decision has sparked widespread outcry across the country and calls for tougher punishment for sexual crimes.
The group were cleared of rape charges over the assault, which took place during the Pamplona bull running festival in 2016, but convicted of sexual abuse – a crime that, under Spain’s criminal code, does not involve violence or intimidation.
The men, who allegedly boasted about the assault in a WhatsApp group called the Wolf Pack (la manada), were handed nine-year prison sentences, but as both the perpetrators and the victim are appealing the term, the convictions are not final.
The decision to grant the men bail by a court in the northern region of Navarra was widely criticised by many groups fighting for women’s rights across the country.
Part of the justification for their release was that they were thought to be unlikely to reoffend, particularly because their images were splashed across the media, losing their anonymity.
Protesters gathered yesterday in Pamplona's central square following the ruling with banners stating “We women believe you" – a phrase which is Spain’s version of #MeToo - as anger over the case was reignited.
More protests were planned across the country today.
The state prosecutor had originally asked for sentences of more than 20 years each for rape, which in Spain requires a plaintiff to present evidence of specific violence, such as being threatened with a knife or dealt physical blows.
Including a former policeman and a former soldier, the accused were ordered to pay 6,000 euros ($6,999) bail, report to police three times a week and relinquish their passports. They were also banned from going to Madrid, where the victim is from.
The assault took place last in 2016 after the group of men, aged between 27 and 30, from Seville, travelled to the Pamplona bull running festival.
They are accused of offering to accompany the victim to her car but instead leading her into a building and sexually assaulting her, the court heard.
It was also alleged that some of them filmed the incident on their phones, before stealing the victim’s phone and leaving.
The defence argued that the victim consented to sex.
As well as protests, there has been plenty of talk about the situation among political groups across the country.
Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called for judges to be trained in issues regarding gender equality
Ines Arrimadas, a prominent deputy from centre-right party Ciudadanos, tweeted that she was “very worried” that the group were to be back out on the street and called from reforms to the laws.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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