Men in ‘Wolf Pack’ rape case released on bail in Spain
Bail granted pending appeal of April ruling in which the five were given nine years in jail
Five men who were found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at the July 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, were released on bail Thursday, setting off protests by women in several Spanish cities.
In the case, seen as a landmark for women’s rights in Spain, a regional court panel of three judges ruled 2-1 that the men be released on bail of €6,000 pending the appeal of an April ruling in which they were sentenced to nine years in prison for “continuous sexual abuse.”
Prosecutors, seeking a conviction for rape and other charges, had sought sentences of nearly 23 years for the men.
Shortly after the judges’ decision was announced on Thursday, women took to the streets of Pamplona and other Spanish cities, holding banners that read “Enough patriarchal justice” and “No is no, anything else is rape.”
Women’s groups said they planned more protests Friday, including in Madrid. Mass protests across Spain also followed the earlier court decision not to convict the men of rape. Under the country’s criminal code, rape must involve violence or intimidation. The judges ruled that there was not sufficient evidence of violence or intimidation, and they noted what they said was the passivity of the victim during the assault.
The Pamplona case has also added a Spanish element to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. The hashtag #Cuntalo, which means “tell your story,” went viral, with women, including prominent journalists, writers and politicians, talking about their experiences of being harassed or assaulted.
The trial of the five men who called themselves “la manada,” a term often used to refer to a wolf pack has generated outrage among women’s groups for almost two years.
The attack took place in July 2016, during the Pamplona festivities that have become one of Spain’s main tourist attractions, as thousands gather to watch people try to dodge bulls hurtling down narrow streets on their way to the bull ring.
The woman, who was 18 years old at the time of the attack and whose identity has been protected by the authorities, was assaulted in the early hours of the morning by the five men from Seville, who filmed the episode on their mobilephones.
In addition to initial protests over the attack, public outcry intensified after lawyers for the five men presented the victim as a consenting sexual partner who suffered no lasting damage in the assault. The latest court decision in the case follows an abrupt and unexpected change in government in Spain this month. The new Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, selected a Cabinet in which women are in charge of almost two-thirds of the ministries, the highest such representation of women in a European government.
It is not unusual for judges in Spain to order the release of a sentenced defendant when a ruling on an appeal is pending if they believe the defendant does not represent a flight risk and is unlikely to repeat the crime. But the Pamplona case has been anything but usual, generating what Soledad Murillo, Spain’s new secretary of state for equality, described as “social alarm” on Thursday, shortly after the judges ordered the men’s release.
In April, Ms Murillo was among the politicians who openly questioned the decision not to convict the men of rape. But she adopted a more reserved tone on Twitter on Thursday, saying that as a part of the government, “I cannot judge this judicial decision.”
She also called on citizens to wait for the publication of the decision, expected Friday, to analyse exactly why the judges ordered the men’s release.–NYT