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People lift up their arms as the shout slogans during a protest outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid, April 26, 2018. Women's rights groups protested after a court in northern Spain sentenced five men to nine years each in prison for the lesser crime of sexual abuse in what activists saw as a gang rape during the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona.
Francisco Seco/AP
Girls & Women

Thousands Are Protesting in Spain After 5 Men Were Cleared of Gang Rape

Thousands of people filled the streets of cities across Spain over the weekend in outrage after five men accused of raping an 18-year-old woman were convicted of sexual abuse, a less severe offense.

In a case that captured national attention, the group of men was accused of gang raping the young woman at the 2016 running of the bulls festival in Pamplona. Their trial prompted public outcry, with many criticizing the court of cross-examining the victim rather than her attackers, according to The Guardian.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

On Thursday, a three-judge panel in Pamplona found the men guilty of “continuous sexual abuse,” which carries a nine-year prison sentence, rather than rape, which carries a sentence of nearly 23 years, according to CNN. The lesser charge indicates that the assault did not include violence or intimidation, the Huffington Post reports.

Both the prosecution and the defense have said that they will appeal the decision, Public Radio International reports.

The group of men — José Ángel Prenda, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Ángel Boza, Alfonso Jesús Cabezuelo, and Jesús Escudero — came to be known as “la manada,” or “the wolfpack,” after the name of the WhatsApp messaging group they used to chat with friends, CNN reports.

WhatsApp messages exchanged in the group bragging about the incident, as well as videos of the assault, were among the evidence presented in the case and part of why the devastating incident became such a high-profile news story in Spain.

Read More: 20 Cases of Sexual Violence Were Reported at the Winter Olympics

By Thursday evening, crowds had gathered outside of the Pamplona courthouse to express disapproval for the lesser conviction. And over the weekend, thousands gathered in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Alicante, and other cities across the country to chant and march with signs.

In Pamplona, more than 30,000 protesters showed up, a local police spokesperson told CNN.

Some carried signs that read, “It’s not abuse, it’s rape” and “Our Word.” Others chanted, “I believe you,” in support of the victim and “If they touch one of us, they touch all of us!” according to The Guardian and CNN.

On Friday, a spokesperson said that the Spanish government was reviewing whether the law on sexual crimes "needs to be updated,” CNN reports.

Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and women’s rights. You can take action here to call on world leaders to #LeveltheLaw and help amend gender discriminatory policies to prevent sexual violence against women.