By Sonya Dowsett
MADRID (Reuters) – The state prosecutor for the Spanish regional government of Navarra said on Friday it would appeal a ruling that cleared five men of the gang rape of a teenager at the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona two years ago.
The ruling, which handed out sentences for the lesser charge of sexual abuse, led thousands of people to join spontaneous protests across Spain on Thursday evening, including outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid.
Protests continued on Friday outside the court in Pamplona where the trial took place. Hundreds of people chanted “We want justice” and waved signs that read “No means No” and “Justice!”
The prosecutor said it would appeal the ruling in coming days on the grounds of infringement of the law, arguing that the attack carried out by the five men on an 18-year-old woman in the lobby of a residential building was rape, not sexual abuse.
Under Spanish law, to be charged with the more serious crime of sexual aggression or rape, there must be specific violence attached to the crime such as threatening with a knife or dealing physical blows to the victim.
The five men, who had recorded video of the attack on their mobile phones and laughed about the incident afterwards on a Whatsapp group, have been handed nine-year sentences. The state prosecutor had asked for jail sentences of more than 20 years.
The so-called “Wolf Pack” case had already sparked widespread anger around Spain following concern over increased reports of sex attacks at the annual festival and over the mistreatment of women in general.
It has also drawn international attention, coming at a time of heightened global concern over the sexual abuse of women in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
“CHANGE IN AWARENESS”
The scale of the protests shows how much Spanish society has changed in recent decades, said Chelo Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the 8M feminist group. 8M is named after the date of a massive nationwide march that took place across Spain in support of women’s rights on March 8 this year.
“There is a change in awareness in Spanish society,” she said. “The problem lies with the institutions, which continue to be patriarchal and sexist.”
Justice Minister Rafael Catala said after the ruling that Spain should consider revising its criminal code if necessary.
The Running of the Bulls in San Fermin is one of Spain’s most popular summer fiestas, drawing thousands of tourists from around the world to the northern city of Pamplona.
Hundreds of people run down narrow streets in front of fighting bulls every morning of the nine-day event but the festival is just as famous for the revelry on the sidelines with huge wine-fueled street parties, firework displays and processions.
(Editing by Julien Toyer and Gareth Jones)