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Spanish prosecutor to seek tougher rape verdict in abuse case after protests

Spanish prosecutor to seek tougher rape verdict in abuse case after protests
By Reuters
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MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors will appeal a court ruling which found five men who assaulted a 14-year-old girl guilty of sexual abuse rather than the graver crime of rape, a source at the prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.

The ruling, which has sparked days of protests by women activists, has revived memories of the so-called Wolfpack case which led to mass rallies across Spain last year over chauvinism and sexual abuse.

Last Thursday, Barcelona's High Court sentenced the five men to 10-12 years in prison. It ruled that their 2016 assault was not rape because the victim, who was drunk and unconscious, could neither "agree to (nor) oppose the sexual relations".

In its appeal, the Barcelona prosecutor's office said it wanted the men instead to be charged with rape, which carries prison sentences of 15 to 20 years.

Women activists have branded last week's verdict a "disgrace" and have demanded that the government reform the penal code to allow for a broader definition of rape and tougher sentences. (Full Story

Spanish law currently does not legally recognise rape unless physical violence or intimidation is employed. The Socialist government, which is facing a national election on Sunday, has appointed a panel to review relevant parts of the penal code.

Many European countries have revised sexual violence laws to recognise the importance of explicit consent and take non-physical forms of coercion and abuse of power into account.

In the Wolfpack case a lower court ruled in 2016 that five men who gang-raped a teenager at a bull-running festival were guilty of sexual abuse.

Following the mass protests and an appeal, Spain's Supreme Court ruled in June this year that they were guilty of rape and increased their sentences to 15 years from nine.

(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Gareth Jones)

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