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Up to 35,000 people march in Spanish city after five men were convicted of lesser offence of sexual abuse of 18-year-old woman.

Protests continue for third day over Pamplona gang rape acquittal
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Sun, April 29, 2018 10:19

MADRID, April 29, 2018 (News agencies) -- Tens of thousands of people have marched in northern Spain for a third

consecutive day to protest against the acquittal of five men of gang rape.

Police in Pamplona estimated up to 35,000 people took part in a demonstration on Saturday, rallying under the slogan, “it’s

not sexual abuse, it’s rape”. Thousands of women marched together with their hands raised at the protest, which police said

passed off peacefully.

An 18-year-old woman was attacked during the city’s bull-running festival in 2016, prompting a national outcry.

The five men, who called themselves la manada or “the wolf pack” in their WhatsApp group, were on Thursday acquitted of

sexual assault, which includes rape, and sentenced to nine years for the lesser offence of sexual abuse. Lawyers say the

victim is appealing.

Demonstrators have filled streets across the country since the court ruling, leading Spain’s conservative government to say it

will consider changing rape laws.

The court’s decision has also prompted thousands of women to share their experiences of abuse on Twitter under the

hashtag #cuentalo, Spanish for “tell it”.

Ana Botín, the head of Santander, one of Spain’s biggest banks, tweeted the ruling was “a step back for women’s security”,

while former judge Manuela Carmena, now the Madrid mayor, tweeted it “does not meet women’s demand for justice”.

Carmena called for the country’s supreme court to overturn it.

An online petition calling for the disqualification of the judges who passed the sentence gathered more than 1.2m signatures

by Saturday.

The issue also hogged the headlines of newspapers all around the country. Under Spain’s criminal code, evidence of

violence or intimidation must exist for the offence of rape to be proved, but that was a legal nuance that was “not always easy

to establish,” top-selling daily El País wrote in an editorial.

And a community of 16 Carmelite nuns in the Hondarribia monastery in the Basque country condemned the court ruling on

Facebook.

“We live cloistered away, wearing a habit that reaches down to our ankles, we don’t go out in the evening, we don’t go to

parties, we don’t drink alcohol and we’ve undertaken a vow of chastity,” the nuns said.

“And because that’s our free choice, we will defend with all the means at our disposal ... the right of all woman to FREELY do

the opposite, without them being judged, raped, threatened, killed or humiliated.”

State prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling.

Adriana Lastra, a top official with Spain’s main opposition Socialist party, said the court ruling was “disgraceful”.

“It’s the product of a patriarchal and macho culture,” she said.

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