Women Protest After Spanish Court Clears 5 of Rape Charges

Outraged Spaniards filled the streets across the country Thursday to march against what many considered to be the light punishment for five men charged with raping a teenage girl in 2016.

The three-judge court in Pamplona sentenced the defendants to nine years in prison for the crime of sexual abuse, instead of the 22 years they could have gotten if convicted of rape.

Protests against the verdict erupted in Pamplona and soon spread to other major cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

Marchers banged on pots and chanted “No means no” and “It’s not abuse — it’s rape.”

“I am asking myself what is happening with the justice system in Spain and in the world,” a female student from Madrid told reporters. “It is mind-blowing, what is happening here. This is a clear example that the masculine laws rule.”

The five defendants, who had dubbed themselves “The Pack,” were accused of dragging the 18-year-old victim into a building in Pamplona, raping her and capturing their crime on smartphones. They were also accused of stealing the young woman’s cellphone to stop her from calling for help.

Under the Spanish criminal code, rape is classified as a violent crime, while sexual abuse means there was no violence.

The defense argued the sex was consensual; prosecutors said it was not.

In addition to prison time, the judges ordered the five men to pay the victim $61,000. Their lawyers can appeal.