Pamplona festival ‘wolf pack’ rape trial comes to an end

The trial of five men accused of gang raping a woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival wrapped up Tuesday in case that shocked Spain and sparked protests against violence against women.

Pamplona festival 'wolf pack' rape trial comes to an end
Demonstrators holding posters reading "Enough!" as they gather outside the Town Hall of Pamplona, northern Spain, to protest against sex assaults that happened during the San Fermin Festival.

The men, aged 27 to 29, are accused of having raped the woman, then aged 18, at the entrance to an apartment building in Pamplona on July 7th, 2016 at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors.

The five, who are all from the southern city of Seville, allegedly filmed the rape with their smartphones and then bragged about it on a WhatsApp messaging group where they referred to themselves as “La Manada,” or “The Wolf Pack” in English.

READ MORE: Anger in Spain over Pamplona festival gang rape case

File photo from 2016 of a banner protesting against the growin number of sexual assaults during the bull-run in Pampona. Photo: Ander Gillenea/AFP

The men say the woman consented and have only admitted to stealing the woman's mobile phone. Their lawyers on Tuesday pleaded with court for them to be acquitted.

During the trial the men's lawyers cited the videos of the incident, which were shown in court, as proof that the woman had agreed to the sexual encounter.

“We don't see a sexual assault, we see sexual relations, period,” the lawyer for three of the accused, Agustin Martinez Becerra, told reporters.   

Public prosecutors denied the woman consented and have asked that the five men be sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in prison each.   

During their final arguments on Monday they pointed out that the woman had met the men just seven minutes before the alleged rape and did not even know their names.

“There was serious intimidation and it prevented resistance or flight, she had no other option but to submit,” public prosecutor Elesa Sarasate told the court in the first session of the trial that was open to the public, according to online newspaper El Diario.

The trial, which began on November 13, had up until then been held behind closed doors to protect the identity of the alleged victim.   

The case sparked criticism from women's groups after the court initially agreed to admit as evidence a private detective's report into the alleged victim's behaviour after incident, including her presence at a party.

Spaniards adopted the slogan “I believe you” on their social media profiles in support of the woman and street protests were held in Madrid and other Spanish cities this month against violence against women and the court's handling of the case.


PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever

With the news last week that the Spanish city of Pamplona in Navarra has been forced to cancel its bull running fiesta for the second year running due to the Covid crisis, animal rights activists have seized on the opportunity to call for it to be banned permanently.

PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever
A shot from the encierro on July 7th 2019. Photo: AFP

PETA are writing to the mayor of Pamplona with the offer of €298,000 if the Navarran city ceases the use of bulls during their fiesta altogether.

“People around the world, including in Spain, say it’s past time the torment and slaughter of animals for human entertainment were stopped,” says PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in her appeal to Pamplona mayor, Enrique Maya.

“Now is the moment to be on the right side of history. We hope you will accept our offer and allow Pamplona to reinvent itself for the enjoyment of all.”

Each morning during the eight day festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which bursts into celebration at midday on July 6th, six fighting bulls and six steers are released to run through the narrow streets of the old town to the bullring where the bulls are killed in the evening corridas.

Hundreds run alongside the animals in the morning dash which often results in gorings, and injuries from being stomped on after runners lose their footing in the crowds.

The festival, which was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway, who set his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” during San Fermin, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the party each year.

The festival, which sees Pamplona’s population swell from just under 200,000 to more than a million, is estimated to bring an annual boost of €74 million to Pamplona businesses, according to an association of fighting bull breeders.

PETA’s offer is the latest in a long campaign to ban what it calls “Pamplona’s annual bloodbath”.

Together with Spanish groupAnimaNaturalis, the activists stage peaceful protests ahead of the start of the festival year.

The city’s former mayor, Joseba Asirón, supported the protests, describing them as “fair and honest”.

Speaking to reporters about the groups’ calls to remove bull runs from the festival, he said, “[T]his is a debate that sooner or later we will have to put on the table. For a very simple reason, and that is that basing the festival on the suffering of a living being, in the 21st century, is something that, at best, we have to rethink.”

Since the pandemic began festivals across Spain have been cancelled but corridas were allowed last summer with limited occupancy and with social distancing and Covid-19 measures in place.

But although Spain’s bullfighting lobby is strong, there is a general trend away from it.

In a poll published in 2019 by online newspaper El Español, over 56 percent of Spaniards said they were against bullfighting, while only 24.7 were in favour. Some 18.9 percent said they were indifferent.

Support was significantly higher among conservative voters, it showed.