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35k protest in Spain over ruling in ‘gang rape’ case

People shout slogans during a protest against the acquittal of five men on gang rape charges, in Pamplona, Spain, on April 28, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Tens of thousands of people have flocked to the streets in northern Spain for a third consecutive day to protest the acquittal of five men on gang rape charges.

An estimated 35,000 protesters marched through the city of Pamplona on Saturday after the men were cleared of the charge of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman during the city’s bull-running festival in 2016.

According to a police report, the incident took place in the lobby of a building during the famed San Fermin festival, which brings more than one million people to Pamplona for the nine-day ceremony in July every year.

Fragments of video footage from the assault scene were used as evidence in the trial, alongside witness accounts and results of biological tests.

The police report said the victim maintained a “passive or neutral” attitude throughout the incident, keeping her eyes closed at all times. Defense lawyers claimed that that signaled her consent, while the prosecutors said she was so traumatized that she was unable to move.

The men were convicted on Thursday on a lesser felony of sexual abuse and sentenced to nine years each in prison instead of the 20 years requested by state prosecutors for the rape charge.

The announcement of the court ruling has prompted large protests throughout the country, including in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Pamplona, and Alicante.

Demonstrators march during a protest in Pamplona on April 28, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

During the Saturday march, the protesters carried placards that read, “It is not abuse, it is rape,” and chanted, “I believe you,” in reference to the victim.

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

Adriana Lastra, a top official with Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party denounced the court ruling as “disgraceful,” and said, “It’s the product of a patriarchal and macho culture.”

State prosecutors announced that the ruling by a three-judge panel would be appealed.

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