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Spain: Mass protests: ‘It's not sexual abuse: it's rape’

MASS demonstrations have continued across Spain in protest at the acquittal of five men accused of gang-raping an 18-year old woman in Pamplona.

They are demanding justice for women after the men – who called themselves “the wolf pack” – were cleared of rape, a verdict that has led Spain’s conservative government to say it would consider changing the legislation.

Under Spanish law, there must be evidence of violence or intimidation to prove a charge of rape. Prosecutors argued that violence was used and that the woman had not consented to sex. They were seeking the maximum sentence of more than 22 years behind bars.

The court heard how, in 2016, the five men travelled to Pamplona for the annual bull-running festival. There they met the woman, before taking her into an apartment building and raping her, filming the attack on their smartphones.

According to court documents, one of the men stole the woman’s phone and the group boasted about their actions on text service WhatsApp.

In their ruling, the judges said : “It is indisputable that the plaintiff suddenly found herself in a narrow and hidden place, surrounded by five older, thick-bodied males who left her overwhelmed and unresponsive.

“The videos show the plaintiff surrounded and stuck against the wall by two of the accused … she has an absent grimace and keeps her eyes closed.”

However, the judges convicted the men of the lesser offence of “sexual abuse” and sentenced them to nine years in jail, sparking days of nationwide protests.

In Pamplona, around 35,000 people took part in Saturday’s demonstration under the slogan: “It’s not sexual abuse, it’s rape.”

Other cities where huge protests took place include Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Alicante where protesters shouted: “Yo te creo (I believe you)” and banged pots and pans.

Feminist Party president Lidia Falcon said the ruling meant that rape in Spain is “practically free” of punishment.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Friday that ministers would consider whether the law on sexual crimes, which dates from 1995, “needs to be updated.”

“The government has been, is and always will be with the victims,” he insisted.

Prosecutors have confirmed that they will appeal against the court’s decision, while the defence lawyer representing four of the men said his clients would also seek to overturn the sentence.

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