With the provisional release of accused gang rapists, many ask if Spain is trivializing violence against women

Protests over the court decision about “la Manada” case at Constitution Square (Malaga) Photo by CANVALCA, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

“La Manada” (the pack), a group of five young men who were accused of gang rape during the San Fermin festival in 2016, was set free on bail while awaiting the final ruling. The court in Pamplona, Spain decided, by two votes against one, to release them on a provisional basis while their case awaits appeal. This latest decision by the Spanish court has divided those who celebrate the group's release and others who are calling for justice in the name of the victim.

The group gained infamy across Spain after being accused of gang raping a young woman, stealing the victim’s mobile phone, and uploading the video of the assault to social media. “La Manada” is the name of their WhatsApp chat, on which they shared pictures of the assault and threatened to do more. The men have been in preventive detention for almost two years — the maximum time that they could be kept in custody without a final judgment. Nevertheless, this time limit could have been expanded had the court decided to do so.

Judge Ricardo González voted in favor of releasing the members of “La Manada” on bail, asking for the acquittal of the accused. He stated that the video, which was recorded by the defendants, showed “sexual acts in an atmosphere of revelry and rejoicing” and that the victim’s face seemed relaxed. The only woman in court, Judge Raquel Fernandino, voted in favor of releasing them on bail, while Judge José Cobo voted against it.

A controversial case

The first ruling found the group guilty of sexual assault and not the more serious crime of rape — a ruling which was deemed too mild by a good part of the Spanish public. This second ruling, which allowed for the group's provisional release, was felt by many to be a slap in the face.

Navarre's court (the autonomous region responsible for trying the case) ruled that due to the loss of anonymity and a lack of money, the defendants were not likely to escape or to commit another assault. It also took into consideration the fact that the defendants live over 300 miles away from the victim.

In response, Laura Duarte said on Twitter:

The faces of the five culprits are well-known so we should be alert—meaning we should be careful in the streets. That’s the conclusion one might derive from the court’s decision—if they are well-known they won’t commit another assault. Terrible.

The defense lawyer said that the bond was paid rather quickly, thanks to the help of the defendants’ families. He also criticized the social outrage generated by the incident, saying that “these hysterical protests led by some political parties are unjustified and unjustifiable”.

On the other hand, on social media people were very critical of the court's decision. Miguel Urbán, an MEP from left-wing party Podemos, tweeted:

The same court that ruled against rape charges now says that the risk of escaping or criminal reiteration doesn't exist. The feminist movement shows one more time that it is several steps ahead of society while patriarchal justice is still far behind.

Screenwriter Sergio Santesteban questioned the court's impartiality:

Right now, I have lost count. After Navarre's court ruling I ask myself, ‘How many members belong to ‘La Manada'?

The danger of trivializing violence

Many people feel that the incident and the court ruling have consequences that go far beyond the case itself. On social media, people underlined the danger of underestimating violence and pointed to the social impact that may arise from letting “La Manada” free.

In addition, four of the group’s five members have a pending lawsuit on another sexual assault committed shortly before the Pamplona incident when, presumably, they drugged and sexually abused a young woman in Pozoblanco, Cordoba.

Not every man is a rapist, nevertheless, now that the five men charged with sexual abuse have been released from jail, we all become potential victims. We should raise our voices in protest. As we can see, being silent doesn't get justice, so let’s yell.

Navarra’s Court gets tough and orders ‘La Manada’ members to swear by baby Jesus that they will behave from now on.

‘La Manada’ was welcomed home with cheers, causing other boys to emulate them while others joke about rape. We realize they are not on our side, but they don’t realize that we are more and more every day.

Meanwhile, others celebrated the court ruling, like the members of Innisfree Editorial, who wrote:

We’ve waited a long time for this day. Fuck you, Feminazis! #LaManada was set free because the contradictions and lies told by the plaintiff disgusted everyone that read the judgment. There is no crime nor sexual assault, they are going to be acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The user, Juanote, in his comment in the digital newspaper El Confidencial, made use of all the anti-feminist clichés:

Espero que esta sea la primera victoria frente al totalitarismo feminazzi. Espero que sea la primera y no la última. Tengo miedo de la sociedad que quiere imponer el feminazzismo. Están demostrando todas las características que demostró el nazzismo en su ascenso al poder.

I do hope this is the first and not the last victory against the totalitarian feminazi. I fear a society that wants to impose feminazism, as it resembles Nazism on its rise to power.

On the other hand, although they respected and abided by court's decision, many political parties spoke out to condemn the court's ruling. Ángeles Álvarez, the Equality Commission on Congress spokeswoman for the left-wing party PSOE, stated that the court decision is estranged from justice. Justice Minister Dolores Delgado promised to analyze the situation to give an answer to a society that’s demanding it.

The decision from Pamplona's court falls a few days before the start of this year's San Fermin festival and it is seen as bad publicity for the popular event.

The members of ‘La Manada’ were released a few days before the opening of the San Fermin festival. I wonder how the victim feels about it. We are not safe.

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