Viewpoint: Spain rape case highlights enduring machismo

There has been widespread anger in Spain at a court’s decision to convict five men accused of rape on a lesser charge of sexual abuse. The case – over an attack against an 18-year-old woman during the Pamplona bull-running festival two years ago – caused a national outcry.

Barcelona-based Spanish journalist and writer Eva Millet looks at the symbolism of the verdict and the fight for women’s rights in the country.

Recently, I was in Andalusia for a talk. Until not long ago, this southern region was one of the poorest and more macho-oriented in my country. Today it is prosperous and modern and a woman leads its regional government.

But a macho culture is hard to eradicate. At the hotel where I was supposed to stay I encountered a true macho, Manolo. I hadn’t seen one for a while. He smelled of alcohol, was rude and condescending and would not give me a room. Instead, he went to the bar, next door.

I followed him and travelled back in time: the place was full of men, drinking and watching a bullfight on TV. They stared at me. The mood was hostile. I went outside.

And then, the women arrived to my rescue. Three. In a Mini Cooper, looking fabulous, welcoming and warm. They dealt with Manolo smoothly. I got my room and we went for supper.

They were bright, fun and powerful. All had university degrees and good jobs. They were living proof that Spain has changed massively in the last few decades. Despite all the problems, it is a modern country, and women have played a fundamental role in this transformation.

On Women’s Day in March, millions here joined the global strike, with a strength not seen anywhere else. Spanish women have boomed and bloomed and made this country different.

  • Thousands protest over rape ruling
  • ‘Wolf pack’ gang rape trial angers Spain

    That is why the sentence against the La manada (wolf pack) gang has outraged us. The court has considered that what happened to the 18 year-old during the San Fermín festival was not rape, but sexual abuse.

    Let me remind you what happened to her. According to a police report, she was taken to a hallway where five men surrounded her, removed her clothes and had unprotected sex with her, including intercourse.

    Some of the men filmed the sexual act. One shared the video in a WhatsApp group, boasting, and promising to keep posting. When they finished, another stole the victim’s phone.

    The girl was left there, like a piece of used cloth. Despite the ordeal, she had the strength to report the assault.

    ‘What do I tell my daughters?’

    She was very brave. And that is why this sentence is even more outrageous – by denying that a prolonged sexual assault by five men constitutes rape, it also deters other women from reporting similar outrages.

    “What do I tell my daughters? That if something like this happens they should be passive, in order to avoid being killed? Or that they should resist, like martyrs, to prove that they did not consent?” asks Luz Sánchez-Mellado, a senior journalist of El País.

    Indeed. What do we tell our daughters when a court rules that what the “wolf pack” did wasn’t rape because it did not involve violence or intimidation, and when one of the judges called for acquittal on all charges except stealing the victim’s phone?

    I want to believe that this is an isolated case. That justice will be done. And I am not the only one: there is sheer indignation here. Not only from women but also, from fathers, brothers and sons.

Pamplona rape case: Protests over sentence go in to third day

Thousands of people turned out on the streets of the Spanish city Pamplona on Saturday for the third day of protests after five men were cleared of rape.

The men, who called themselves the Wolf Pack, were found guilty of sexual abuse, which many consider too lenient.

The case has caused a national outcry, with protests also taking place in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia since Thursday’s verdict.

The victim, then 18, was assaulted at the city’s bull-running festival.

The Spanish hashtag #cuéntalo, meaning “tell it”, has been widely tweeted in recent days, as people shared their own stories of abuse in solidarity with her.

The five men – José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza – were each sentenced to nine years in prison.

Prosecutors had asked for sentences of more than 20 years.

Under Spanish law, the charge of sexual abuse differs from rape in that it does not involve violence or intimidation.

The Spanish government has said it will review the classification of sexual offences.

More than 30,000 people protested on Saturday, according to police.

The demonstrators strode down the roads where the bulls run during the annual festival, known locally as San Fermín.

  • ‘Wolf pack’ gang rape trial angers Spain
  • Viewpoint: Rape case highlights enduring machismo

    Many said they were motivated not only by this case, but they also wanted to take a stand against the whole legal system, which they said was stacked against women.

    “Justice is still patriarchal, it puts the blame on us and we are unprotected,” said one of the female protesters to local radio station RTVE, according to Reuters news agency.

    The protesters gathered behind a giant banner, which said (in Basque): “No one judges our opinion.”

    A group of nuns from Hondarribia convent, in the Basque Country, also spoke out against the verdict.

    “We wanted there to be a voice in the Church to criticise the sentence,” a spokesperson for the sisters, Sister Mariluz, told AFP news agency.

    The five-month trial was held behind closed doors to protect the woman’s identity.

    According to a police report, the five men surrounded her in a small alcove, removed her clothes and had unprotected sex.

    Some of the men filmed the sexual act on their phones. In their WhatsApp group, named “la manada” (meaning wolf pack), they celebrated afterwards and promised to share the recording.

    The police report said the victim maintained a “passive or neutral” attitude throughout the scene, keeping her eyes closed at all times. Her phone was then stolen.

    Defence lawyers argued the apparent passivity was proof of consent. The prosecutors said she was too traumatised to move.

    The men, who have been in custody since 2016, were also ordered to pay the woman €50,000 ($61,000; £44,000) in compensation.

    Guerrero, a police officer for the paramilitary Guardia Civil, was fined an extra €900 for stealing her phone.

    Both the woman and the defendants say they will appeal against the verdict.

    After it was announced, the national police tweeted: “No is no”, plus the emergency number, adding: “We are always with you.”

Billion euro cyber-suspect arrested in Spain

A cyber-crime mastermind suspected of stealing about £870m (€1bn) has been arrested in Spain.

The individual is alleged to be the head of the organised crime gang that ran the Carbanak and Cobalt malware campaigns that targeted banks.

Europol said the group had been active since 2013 and infiltrated more than 100 banks in that time.

Cash was siphoned off via bank transfers or dispensed automatically through cash machines.

Luxury goods

The arrest was a “significant success” against a top cyber-crime group, Steven Wilson, head of Europol’s Cyber-Crime Centre (EC3), which co-ordinated the long-running, cross-border investigation into the group. said in a statement.

“The arrest of the key figure in this crime group illustrates that cyber-criminals can no longer hide behind perceived international anonymity,” he said.

The cyber-thieves got their malware on to bank networks by sending key staff booby-trapped phishing emails, said Europol. The gang used three separate generations of malware, each one more sophisticated than the last, to penetrate and then lurk on financial networks.

Once the machines of key staff were compromised, the gang used their remote access to banking networks to steal money in several different ways.

  • cash machines were ordered to remotely dispense money at specific times – letting mules and other gang members scoop up the notes
  • inter-bank money transfer systems were instructed to move cash into criminal accounts
  • databases were altered to increase account balances. Mules then removed the money via cash machines

    Money was laundered via crypto-currencies and payment cards, which were used to buy luxury goods including cars and houses.

    Europol, the FBI, cyber-security firms and polices forces in Spain, Romania, Belarus and Taiwan all collaborated to track down the gang, said the European policing agency.

Spain Catalonia: Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany sparks mass protests

Protests broke out across the Spanish region of Catalonia on Sunday after former leader Carles Puigdemont was taken into custody in Germany.

At least 89 people were injured in clashes with police and four arrests were made.

Mr Puigdemont, who is wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, was detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant.

He will appear before a German judge later on Monday.

Mr Puigdemont was detained while crossing from Denmark on his way to Belgium, where he has been living in self-imposed exile since Catalonia’s parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October.

Germany has 60 days to decide whether to return him.

In order to do so, its judges need to assess whether the Spanish charges are punishable under German law.

Criminal lawyer Martin Heger told Germany’s Spiegel website (in German) that the lesser charge of misappropriation of public funds was also a crime under German law, and therefore it was clear that the exiled ex-leader would have to be extradited.

However, if he is extradited on that charge, he can only be tried on that offence.

It is unclear whether the alleged crimes of rebellion and sedition are punishable in Germany.

The extradition procedure can last about two months.

Mt Puigdemont also has the right to oppose the warrant and apply for asylum in Germany.

Spain’s latest move is considered the most serious challenge to date to the Catalan independence movement. Almost the entire leadership now faces a major legal fight.

Various other Catalan politicians have been subjected to new warrants, including Catalonia’s former education minister, Clara Ponsati. She is in Scotland, where she has a position at the University of St Andrews, and is preparing to hand herself in.

The number of European arrest warrants issued has increased since 2005, according to EU figures. In 2015, about 16,000 warrants were issued and about 5,000 executed.

How did we get here?

1 October 2017: The independence referendum takes place in Catalonia; it is deemed illegal by Spain and boycotted by many potential voters

27 October: Catalonia’s leaders declare independence, which leads to the Spanish government imposing direct rule on the region and dissolving its parliament

30 October: Charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds are brought against various sacked members of the Catalan government, including Mr Puigdemont

2 November: Several former Catalan ministers are taken into custody in Spain

3 November: European arrest warrants are issued against Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies, who have all fled to Belgium

5 December: A Spanish judge withdraws the European arrest warrants but says the group still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion

21 December: Carles Puigdemont is re-elected to parliament during Catalan’s regional elections – which Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had called to “restore democracy”

1 March 2018: Mr Puigdemont says he is stepping aside and he backs detained activist Jordi Sanchez to run as Catalonia’s president

21 March: Mr Sanchez drops his leadership bid and instead the candidacy is passed to Jordi Turull, who the following day is rejected by hardline separatists

23 March: Mr Turull and various others are arrested in Spain, and the European arrest warrants are reissued

25 March: Mr Puigdemont is detained in Germany

Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan president, detained in Germany

Catalonia’s ex-leader Carles Puigdemont has been detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant.

Mr Puigdemont, who is wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, was held crossing from Denmark on the way to Belgium, his lawyer said.

Mr Puigdemont had been on a visit to Finland since Thursday.

He has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Catalonia’s parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October.

The charges of rebellion and sedition that Mr Puigdemont faces in Spain could result in 30 years in prison.

He slipped out of Finland on Friday before authorities could arrest him.

  • The man who wants to break up Spain
  • Catalan crisis in 300 words

    “The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of Belgian justice,” his spokesman Joan Maria Pique said.

    German police said that Mr Puigdemont was detained by a highway patrol in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark.

    Tensions in Catalonia are very high and its separatist leaders abandoned plans to name a new president following the arrest of the latest candidate, Jordi Turull, on Friday.

    Crowds of protesters had clashed with police in Barcelona on Friday night after Spain’s Supreme Court ruled 25 Catalan leaders should be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state. Mr Turull was among five people taken into custody in fresh arrests.

    The rulings were considered the most serious challenge to date to the Catalan independence movement. Almost the entire leadership now faces a major legal fight.

    Following the referendum, the central government in Madrid sacked the Catalan regional government, imposed direct rule and called new elections but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority.

    International warrants for Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders were withdrawn in December by a Spanish judge, who said they had shown a willingness to return to the country.

    The warrants were reactivated on Friday, surprising Mr Puigdemont, who had been in Finland to give a university lecture.

    Among those wanted is Catalonia’s former education minister, Clara Ponsati. She is in Scotland, where she has a position at the University of St Andrews.

    Who is Carles Puigdemont?

    Carles Puigdemont, 55, is a former journalist who worked for pro-independence media in Catalonia and headed the Catalan News Agency.

    After moving to politics, he became an MP and later mayor of Girona, north-east of Barcelona.

    In 2016, he became leader of Catalonia and led the region to the referendum the following year.

    During his self-imposed exile following the resulting crisis, Mr Puigdemont told Belgian TV he was not hiding from “real justice” but from the “clearly politicised” Spanish legal system.

    How we got here

    1 October 2017: The independence referendum takes place in Catalonia

    27 October: Catalonia’s leaders declare independence, which leads to the Spanish government imposing direct rule on the region and dissolving its parliament

    30 October: Charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds are brought against various sacked members of the Catalan government, including Mr Puigdemont

    2 November: Several former Catalan ministers are taken into custody in Spain

    3 November: European Arrest Warrants are issued against Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies, who have all fled to Belgium

    5 December: A Spanish judge withdraws the European arrest warrants but says the group still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion

    21 December: Carles Puigdemont is re-elected to parliament during Catalan’s regional elections – which Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had called to “restore democracy”

    1 March 2018: Mr Puigdemont says he is stepping aside to allow detained activist Jordi Sanchez to run as Catalonia’s president

    21 March: Mr Sanchez drops his leadership bid and instead the candidacy is passed to Jordi Turull

    23 March: Mr Turull and various others are arrested in Spain, and the European arrest warrants are reactivated

Carles Puigdemont: The man who wants to break up Spain

Catalonia’s sacked President Carles Puigdemont has spearheaded the region’s peaceful drive for independence from Spain.

In defiance of the law and Spain’s constitution, he has pushed forward in the hope of international recognition.

But his zeal for secession has put him on a collision course with Madrid. It outlawed the independence referendum held in Catalonia on 1 October.

After imposing direct rule, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called a snap Catalan election. But the result on 21 December was bad news for Madrid. The separatists won a slim majority, even though a pro-unity party came top.

  • Madrid’s enforcer for Catalonia

    “It is time for the political recipe, which Rajoy failed at,” Mr Puigdemont said, calling again for negotiations with the Spanish leader. “He has only demonstrated a greater mobilisation of Catalans, greater votes.”

    His popularity cuts across class, coming as he does from comparatively modest origins, outside the Catalan elite which for years dominated the local centre-right alliance, Convergence and Union (now known as the Catalan European Democratic Party).

    “Mr Puigdemont has been absolutely key to bringing Catalonia to where we are now,” says Montse Daban, international chairperson of the Catalan National Assembly, a grassroots pro-independence movement.

    “He’s been an absolute and positive surprise for Catalan citizens, who were already supporting the independence process and saw with dismay that it was facing several burdens.”

    But in the eyes of Spain’s government, the Catalan leader has ruthlessly created a crisis, burning all the bridges in order to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

    “Democracy is not about voting – there are referenda in dictatorships too,” a Madrid government source told the BBC. “Only when you vote with guarantees according to the law is it a democracy.”

    • Reality Check: Would Catalonia be a viable country?

      The images of violence at the polling stations were “150% part of Puigdemont’s plan”, the source said.

      “It’s unfortunate because it was a trap. There’s no doubt it looks bad for the Spanish government.”

      New platform

      Mr Puigdemont talks the language of independence in a way his more cautious predecessor, Artur Mas, did not during the dry-run referendum of 2014, which was also banned by Madrid.

      Speaking to the BBC after the 1 October referendum, Mr Puigdemont said: “I think we’ve won the right to be heard, but what I find harder to understand is this indifference – or absolute lack of interest – in understanding what is happening here. They’ve never wanted to listen to us.

      “How can we explain to the world that Europe is a paradise of democracy if we hit old women and people who’ve done nothing wrong? This is not acceptable. We haven’t seen such a disproportionate and brutal use of force since the death of the dictator Franco.”

      He calls for mediation – something the Spanish government says is unacceptable.

      A Madrid source dismissed the idea, telling the BBC it would be “mediation between the Spanish government and part of the Spanish state”.

      From Brussels, Mr Puigdemont has watched as his Catalan allies back home have been placed in Spanish custody to face trial.

      He has been mocked by some for not going to Madrid along with them and placing himself in the hands of Spanish justice.

      One cartoon apparently being circulated on the Whatsapp messaging app shows him, with his distinctive mop of hair and glasses, hiding out in a box of Belgian chocolates.

      Skip Twitter post by @p_hansens

      Unsigned cartoon circulating on whatsApp : Where is #Puigdemont ? #Brussels #Catalonia pic.twitter.com/bzHE1eP0Bv

      — Pascal Hansens (@p_hansens) November 3, 2017

      Report

      End of Twitter post by @p_hansens

      But he has only followed the path taken by earlier Catalan leaders like Josep Tarradellas and Lluís Companys, seeking refuge abroad from a hostile Spanish state.

      Mr Puigdemont told Belgian TV he was not hiding from “real justice” but from the “clearly politicised” Spanish legal system.

      While European arrest warrants against him and his four colleagues were later withdrawn by a Spanish judge, he still faces possible charges of rebellion and sedition if he returns.

      Just by being in Brussels, the man from Girona is keeping the cause he holds so dear, Catalan independence, squarely on the doorstep of the European Union.

Catalonia crisis in 300 words

Catalonia’s drive for independence has plunged Spain into its biggest political crisis for 40 years.

On 21 December pro-independence parties won a narrow majority in a Catalan election that Spain had called in the hope of ending the crisis. So independence remains a possibility.

What is Catalonia?

Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region in north-east Spain with a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years.

The wealthy region has about 7.5 million people, with their own language, parliament, flag and anthem. Catalonia also has its own police force and controls some of its public services.

Why the controversy?

Catalan nationalists have long complained that their region sends too much money to poorer parts of Spain, as taxes are controlled by Madrid.

They also say Spain’s changes to their autonomous status in 2010 undermined Catalan identity.

In a referendum on 1 October, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court, about 90% of Catalan voters backed independence. But turnout was only 43%.

There were clashes when Spanish national police tried to prevent people voting.

The ruling separatists in the Catalan parliament then declared independence on 27 October.

Angered by that, Madrid imposed direct rule by invoking Article 155 of the constitution – a first for Spain.

The Spanish government sacked the Catalan leaders, dissolved parliament and called a snap regional election on 21 December.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium but is wanted in Spain accused of rebellion, as are four who fled with him. Two of his ex-ministers are in prison in Spain.

Why does the crisis matter?

Thousands of businesses have scaled down their operations in Catalonia.

The crisis is being watched nervously by other European states with strong nationalist movements.

@media only screen and (min-width: 1px) { .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper { background-image: none; } .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper .ns_inner_wrapper { max-width: 100%; padding: 0; }}@media only screen and (min-width: 480px) { .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper .ns_inner_wrapper { max-width: 43%; padding: 0.5em; } .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper { background-image: url(https://news.files.bbci.co.uk/vj/live/idt-images/data_pic-catalonia_stats/sagfam_ym961.jpg); }}.ie8 .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper .ns_inner_wrapper { max-width: 43%; padding: 0.5em; }.ie8 .ns_datapic_stat–catalonia-stats-ws-languages .ns_outer_wrapper { background-image: url(https://news.files.bbci.co.uk/vj/live/idt-images/data_pic-catalonia_stats/sagfam_ym961.jpg); }

Catalonia in numbers