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Three men sentenced in Spain’s ‘Sabadell wolf pack’ gang-rape trial

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Sam Jones in Madrid
·3-min read
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<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

Three members of a gang that raped an 18-year-old woman in an abandoned industrial unit in the Catalan city of Sabadell two years ago have been handed sentences of between 13-and-a-half and 31 years.

The attack had become known as the “Sabadell wolf pack case” in a reference to the notorious gang-rape that took place at the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona five years ago, and which caused an outcry across Spain and spurred calls for an overhaul of the country’s sexual offences legislation.

On Friday three judges at a court in Barcelona found the trio guilty of sexual assault, saying they had “created a scene of fear similar to that generated by a violent gang”. A fourth man was acquitted because there was no evidence to place him at the scene of the rape when it happened.

The court heard that the victim had been returning from a night out with friends in the early hours of 3 February 2019 when the gang seized her and drove her to the industrial unit. There she was raped by three men: one received the 31-year sentence, another remains unidentified, and a third absconded.

In their sentencing remarks, the judges said the three convicted men had “worked together actively to create an intimidating atmosphere”, adding one of the defendants had raped the victim and acted as a necessary collaborator with the other two men. The two others were jailed for colluding in the rape by being present and doing nothing to prevent it.

The judgment concurred with the Spanish supreme court’s interpretation of complicity in relation to the Pamplona case, saying: “Even if they did not participate materially in the repeated rapes committed against the victim, they did nothing to prevent not only the beginning of these attacks but also their continuation and completion, instead acting as indifferent bystanders.”

The judges ordered the men – who are Moroccan nationals with irregular status in Spain – to pay the victim €60,000 (£52,000) in compensation, and said they could be deported once the appeal process was concluded.

Related: The shocking rape trial that galvanised Spain’s feminists – and the far right

The Pamplona case – which came to be known as the manada (wolf pack) trial after the name of the rapists’ WhatsApp group – triggered nationwide protests in 2018 after the men were cleared of gang-rape and convicted of the lesser charge of sexual abuse. It also forced politicians and the judiciary to re-examine the country’s laws.

The following year Spain’s supreme court overturned the lower court’s verdict, ruling the five were guilty of gang-rape and raising their sentences from nine to 15 years each.

On Tuesday the same Navarra court that originally cleared the five of rape acquitted a man of sexually abusing his 14-year-old stepdaughter after she said she had had sex with him without his knowledge while he was drunk and asleep on a sofa. A DNA test confirmed that he is the father of the child’s baby, who was born in December 2018.

In October 2019 five men accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in the Catalan town of Manresa were acquitted of sexual assault and convicted of sexual abuse on the grounds that the victim was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.