Re­lease of ‘Wolf Pack’ sparks protests

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Five men con­victed of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a young woman at the Pam­plona bull run­ning fes­ti­val in 2016 were re­leased on bail on Satur­day, reignit­ing out­rage over the case which has led to mass protests call­ing for tougher pun­ish­ment of sex crimes.

The men, who joked about the as­sault in a What­sapp group called ‘‘The Wolf Pack’’, were cleared of rape but con­victed of the lesser crime of sex­ual abuse in April. Both the per­pe­tra­tors and the vic­tim are ap­peal­ing the nine-year prison sen­tences, mean­ing the con­vic­tions are not fi­nal.

A court in the north­ern re­gion of Navarra de­cided to free the men af­ter two years in cus­tody, while they await a fi­nal sen­tence, ar­gu­ing that there was lit­tle chance of re­peat of­fences. Two years tends to be the limit for pro­vi­sional im­pris­on­ment in Spain.

Fol­low­ing the court rul­ing, a crowd filled Pam­plona’s cen­tral square and marched through the streets with a ban­ner pro­claim­ing: ‘‘We women be­lieve you’’ – a phrase that has be­come as widely recog­nised in Spain as the #Metoo la­bel to de­nounce sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the United States.

Protests were held on Satur­day out­side the jus­tice min­istry in Madrid and other cities. In Madrid, pro­test­ers chanted: ‘‘If they don’t kill us, we are in­vis­i­ble.’’

Images of the five men, wear­ing the white T-shirts and red neck-scarves of the San Fer­min fes­ti­val in Pam­plona, have been splashed across news­pa­pers and web­sites.

The con­victs’ loss of anonymity makes the risk of re­peat of­fences ‘‘all but un­think­able’’, the court said in a state­ment.

The state pros­e­cu­tor had orig­i­nally asked for sen­tences of more than 20 years each for rape, which in Spain re­quires a plain­tiff to present ev­i­dence of spe­cific vi­o­lence, such as be­ing threat­ened with a knife or dealt phys­i­cal blows.

All five, who are from the south­ern city of Seville and in­clude a for­mer po­lice­man and a for­mer sol­dier, were or­dered to pay 6000 eu­ros bail, re­port to po­lice three times a week and re­lin­quish their pass­ports.

New So­cial­ist Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez has promised to pro­vide train­ing for judges in gen­der equal­ity, one of a se­ries of so­cially lib­eral projects for which he is likely to get par­lia­men­tary sup­port de­spite head­ing a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The re­lease of the five raised con­cern across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

‘‘I re­spect ju­di­cial de­ci­sions, but as a woman I am very wor­ried to know (the Wolf Pack) are out in the street,’’ Ines Ar­ri­madas, a prom­i­nent deputy from cen­tre-right Ci­u­dadanos party, tweeted. ‘‘Let’s agree to re­vise our pe­nal sys­tem to try to avoid these sit­u­a­tions.’’ – AAP Five ac­tivists putting on a play about the hor­ror of hu­man traf­fick­ing have been al­legedly ab­ducted and gang-raped at gun­point in In­dia’s eastern state of Jhark­hand this week.

The women, who work with a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) sup­ported by lo­cal Chris­tian mis­sion­ar­ies, were stag­ing street plays against hu­man traf­fick­ing in Khunti, a pre­dom­i­nantly tribal district last week when they were at­tacked.

‘‘As the play was in progress, a group of six armed men came on bikes and beat up the men ac­com­pa­ny­ing them,’’ po­lice said on Satur­day. ‘‘They then took the women away at gun­point to the forests nearby where they were sex­u­ally as­saulted.’’

The vic­tims, aged be­tween 19 and 35, were later re­leased.

They filed a po­lice com­plaint on Thurs­day. Po­lice ar­rested one of the sus­pects on Thurs­day and de­tained sev­eral more for ques­tion­ing. – TNS

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