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Court ruling rekindles Spanish anger over the definition of 'rape'

Court ruling rekindles Spanish anger over the definition of 'rape'
Copyright  @ Copyright : REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo/File Photo
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A Spanish appeals court has upheld a hugely-controversial acquittal of five men accused of rape but ultimately convicted of a lesser charge of sexual assault.

The five men were freed on bail pending the appeal but are now each likely to serve their original prison sentence of nine years.

The crime in question took place in Pamplona during the town's famous bull-run in July 2016.

The five men led their 18-year-old female victim to a basement where they each had unprotected and non-consensual sex with her.

The act was filmed and posted on a WhatsApp group shared between the five men under the title La Manada, or 'Wolf Pack', a name which went on to become synonymous with the case.

Throughout her ordeal, the victim kept her eyes shut and, according to a police report, acted in a "passive or neutral" manner.

In the original trial in April, it was ruled that there had been no intimidation and no act of physical violence committed. Without these two criteria, the offence cannot be classed as a rape under Spanish law.

In Tuesday's appeals court ruling, three of the five judges on the panel agreed with the original verdict.

The two other judges did not agree, giving a dissenting opinion in which they said the act "must be penally classified as a crime of sexual aggression", which includes rape. This, they argue, is because the guilty men "set a trap for the victim", and gave her "practically no possibility of fleeing and/or escaping".

The original ruling was, therefore, upheld by a majority.

The case may now be passed upwards to Spain's Supreme Court. A lawyer for four of the convicted men has vowed to appeal, claiming it was a case of consensual sex.

The mayor of Pamplona has also signalled his intention to appeal, arguing it was a case of rape.

The appeals court ruling has re-kindled debate over the need to reform the treatment of sexual offences in Spain and re-classify and re-define the term 'rape'. Many of those demanding such reform argue the definition should be based on whether consent was given to having sex.