Europe

'Wolf pack' jailed for sex attack released by Spanish court

Demonstrators (mostly women) protest, one of them wearing a red glove in Pamplona (June 21, 2018) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women protesting in Pamplona after Thursday's ruling wore red gloves in opposition to sexual abuse

A Spanish court has ordered the provisional release of five men convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman during the famous San Fermin bull-running festival.

All five were sentenced to nine years for sexual abuse but acquitted of rape, a decision that sparked protests.

The 18-year-old victim's ordeal caused an outcry and the sentencing of the men in April led to angry protests.

New demonstrations by women's groups are under way in some Spanish cities.

The men belonged to a WhatsApp group called La manada (the wolf pack) when the incident took place during the festival in Pamplona in July 2016.

Following their conviction, defence lawyers launched an appeal and requested that the five be provisionally released pending the outcome.

Magistrates in the same Navarra court that sentenced the men in April voted two to one on Thursday in favour of releasing the men on €6,000 (£5,200) bail.

The court decided that the five were not a flight risk and were unlikely to reoffend, El Pais newspaper reports.

The men must also report to a court three times a week and surrender their passports. They must not communicate with the victim and are banned from travelling to Madrid, where she is from.

Later on Thursday, the hashtag #LaManada was trending on Twitter in Spain with street protests in several cities including Pamplona itself and Barcelona.

Videos of the late-night encounter between the men, who are in their late 20s and originally from Seville, and the woman show how the five wandered the streets among other drunken revellers before two of them led her into a basement.

According to a police report, the men surrounded the woman in a small alcove, removed her clothes and had unprotected sex.

Some of them filmed the sexual act on their phones. One of the men posted messages in a WhatsApp group celebrating what they had done and promising to share the recording.

According to the police report, the victim maintained a "passive or neutral" attitude throughout the scene, keeping her eyes closed at all times. Her phone was then stolen.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The case triggered protests after the sentencing and again on Thursday

She told the trial that she was still having psychological treatment to deal with trauma.

Under Spanish law, the charge of sexual abuse differs from rape in that it does not involve violence or intimidation.

The conviction and sentence were widely criticised across Spain by women's groups and politicians.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría called on officials to analyse the verdict so that similar cases could be avoided.

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