Europe

Wolf Pack ruling: New Spain sex attack trial reignites rape law debate

The girl's uncle holds up a placard outside the court in Barcelona, 3 July Image copyright EPA
Image caption The girl's uncle held up a placard saying "It's not abuse, it's rape"

Six youths have gone on trial in Spain accused of sexually abusing a girl of 14, in a case that has reignited a debate over the definition of rape.

They are charged with abusing the girl at a disused factory in Manresa, a town in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, in October 2016.

Depending on the testimony heard in court, prosecutors may bring the graver charge of rape instead.

The six defendants, whose ages were not given, deny having sex with the girl.

The case has become known as the "Manada de Manresa", or Manresa wolf pack, because of similarities with another 2016 gang attack on a teenage woman, which prompted nationwide protests and an ongoing review of Spain's rape laws.

On Wednesday, an angry uncle of the girl had to be restrained by police when he lunged towards the defendants, who are on provisional release during the trial, as they left the court.

He was carrying a placard saying "It's not abuse, it's rape".

Warning: Some readers may find details of this story disturbing

Other relatives and friends of the victim chanted the same words, as well as "We want justice".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Defendants rushed away from the court on Wednesday

Some of the defendants, who attempted to cover their faces, could be seen running away.

What are the allegations?

Prosecutors say the six took turns to have sex with the girl, who was "obviously" under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

One of the accused, named only as Bryan Andrés M, is said to have told each of them: "It's your turn. Fifteen minutes each and no delay."

A seventh defendant is accused of masturbating while watching the abuse, and failing to stop the others.

All the defendants deny the allegations, although the DNA of one of them was allegedly found on the girl's underwear. Daniel David R has spent the past two years on remand.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police restrained the girl's uncle

The court was due to hear statements from the girl and witnesses on Wednesday and these were postponed until next Monday, Efe news agency reports.

What the girl has to say will be crucial in helping public prosecutors decide whether to keep the accusation as sexual abuse or change it to the more serious offence of sexual assault, which is the equivalent of rape under existing Spanish law.

A charge of sexual assault involves intimidation or violence, and prosecutors have determined that this is a case of sexual abuse, where no such force is used and where the victim is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

If convicted of abuse, the defendants face 10 to 12 years in prison. If they are convicted of assault they could be sentenced to between 15 and 20 years, El Mundo newspaper reports.

The girl's family is pursuing a private prosecution, arguing that the circumstances constitute sexual assault.

What happened in original 'wolf pack' case?

A court in Navarra jailed five men for sexual abuse, for a gang attack in Pamplona on an 18-year-old woman, who was dragged into the hallway of a residential building.

As she appeared "passive or neutral", according to a police report, the court decided no intimidation or violence had taken place.

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Media captionActivists say rage over Spain's "wolfpack" case has ignited a feminist revolution

Last month, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned that ruling, deciding it was sexual assault, and that the men were rapists.

The five men saw their sentences of nine years increased to 15.

Spain's prime minister last year appointed a panel to review the rape laws.

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