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Spain ponders changes to rape laws amid anger over Pamplona sex case

Spain ponders changes to rape laws amid anger over Pamplona sex case

The Spanish government is considering changes to the law after a court rejected charges of gang rape against five men and convicted them instead on a lesser charge of sexual abuse, an official said.

Street protests erupted across Spain on Thursday after a court in the northern city of Pamplona sentenced the five men to nine years each in prison for sexual abuse.

Activists described the attack during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona as a gang rape.

Government spokesman Iñigo Mendez de Vigo said ministers respect the independence of courts but added that it “has always been, is and will always be on the side of the victims”.

He called the attack “despicable”.

Justice minister Rafael Catala has begun consultations with legal experts to assess whether changes to Spain’s rape laws are required, Mr Mendez de Vigo said.

Also on Friday, a senior prosecutor in northern Spain said he will appeal against the five men’s convictions.

Jose Sanchez, the chief prosecutor in Navarra province, said the attackers – who took pride in their actions on a WhatsApp group named “La Manada” or “The (animal) Pack” – should be punished for “sexual assault (rape) and not only for sexual abuse”.

The verdict by two judges in Navarra and a third’s dissenting vote to acquit the attackers has brought widespread anger and social debate in Spain.

Many people are calling for legal reform and criticising what they perceive as machismo in the judiciary.

The Spanish criminal code says evidence of violence or intimidation must exist for the more severe offence to be proved.

Any changes to the law require approval by a majority of legislators in parliament.

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