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Sexual assault

Court to hear closing arguments in Pamplona gang rape trial

Five accused could still face charges over another alleged assault that also took place in 2016

A woman protests outside the Pamplona court where the La Manada trial is taking place.
A woman protests outside the Pamplona court where the La Manada trial is taking place. ©GTRESONLINE

The trial of five men in their 20s accused of raping an 18-year-old woman at the July 2016 Running of the Bulls festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona is nearing its end.

Prosecution and defense teams will make their final arguments today and tomorrow, with prosecutors to argue the woman was sexually assaulted by the group and the defense to maintain she consented to relations with the men. Here are the key points in a case that has attracted widespread attention across Spain.

Analysis of the videos

The seven fragments of cellphone video footage taken by two of the accused – a soldier and a Civil Guard – during the alleged rape total 96 seconds. During investigations one of the accused, Alfonso Cabezuelo, admitted having deleted the longest section of video: this was later recovered by regional police who carried out an extensive analysis of each frame of that footage. Their report stated the woman “adopted a passive and neutral role” during the sexual act and that her movements were “directed and/or controlled” by the defendants. There was no dialogue between her and the men and her eyes remained closed.

Conflicting evidence

The main piece of conflicting evidence in the trial emerged on the last day. It relates to the initial statement that police took from the woman on July 7, 2016. Answering questions from defense lawyers, the police officer who took that first statement told the court that the girl had told her she knew that she had been filmed. However, the police officer did not take note of this in the statement or inform the examining magistrate of this assertion. Defense lawyers argue this is key information because, according to them, it points to the possibility that the woman lodged a complaint to police about a consensual act because she feared the videos would come to light. Prosecutors firmly reject this argument and believe the police officer made a mistake in court because she could not recall the events of 2016.

Detectives’ reports

One of the most controversial aspects of the trial was the admission of private detective reports ordered by one of the defense teams that examined the online activity of the young woman on social media in the weeks following the alleged rape. Those reports aimed to discredit the existence of psychological damage on the part of the woman, for which prosecution lawyers have called for a compensation payment of €250,000. The admission of those reports was widely criticized by civic and feminist groups who argued it was an attempt to judge the life of the woman after the alleged attack.

On the last day of the trial, this report was withdrawn from evidence because it “could create problems in terms of the right to privacy,” according to lawyers for the prosecutors. The only image that was allowed to remain in evidence was an Instagram photo shared by the victim in 2017.

Prior criminal records

The case has become known as “La Manada” (The Pack) because this was the name of the WhatsApp group used by the defendants, and in which one of them, José Ángel Prenda, wrote on the morning of the events: “Five of us having sex with one [woman],” and announcing “there’s video.”

A private detective’s report into the online behavior of the young woman after the alleged assault was withdrawn

After analyzing video and content found on the phone of the accused, regional police in Navarre found evidence the men could have drugged and sexually assaulted another woman in the southern province of Cordoba two months before the alleged rape in Pamplona. Details from the investigation of that earlier incident have been transferred to a court in that province but no date has been set for a hearing on that matter.

The prosecutor’s office and prosecution lawyers requested that messages relating to this incident be included as evidence in the Pamplona case to demonstrate prior behavior on the part of the accused, however the court ruled this out.

Three of the defendants – José Angel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo and Ángel Boza – have criminal records although none of those prior incidents are related to sexual assault. In the first case, the offense was robbery with force, the second is assault and the other is a drink-driving offense. Cabezuelo had enlisted in the army while Antonio Manuel Guerrero had recently joined the Civil Guard. The fifth defendant is Jesús Escudero.

Session behind closed doors

The trial took place behind closed doors to protect the privacy of the young woman and to stop the dissemination of images of the defendants. Special protective measures were also in place for the woman’s appearance in court on November 14, with defendants watching via video conference from an adjoining room. All details of the case released to the press came from lawyers for the prosecution and the defense.

The court

The presiding judges in the case, José Francisco Cobo, Ricardo González and Raquel Fernandino, were responsible for the decision to allow the five accused men to declare at the end of the trial and not at the beginning so that they could defend arguments made against them. This practice, common in many countries, is unusual in Spain. One veteran lawyer in the city said it was the first time he could remember this taking place in Pamplona.

English version by George Mills.

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