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5 Men On Trial For Gang Rape In Spain

LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

I want to tell you about a story that's shocked the country where I'm normally based - Spain. We're awaiting a verdict there in the trial of five men accused of gang raping an 18-year-old woman at the Running of the Bulls festival last year. Protests have erupted across the country in reaction to how the victim was treated at trial. Her character, even her fashion choices, were called into question.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

FRAYER: "I believe you," the protesters have chanted. The trial has been dubbed la manada, the wolf pack, because that's how the suspects refer to themselves in text messages before the incident.

IRANTZU VARELA: They call themselves la manada because they know they are acting as animals.

FRAYER: Feminist organizer Irantzu Varela is upset that some text messages, which mentioned date rape drugs, were excluded from evidence, and the judge allowed a report by a private investigator who secretly followed the victim as she socialized with friends sometime after the alleged attack.

VARELA: They are trying to prove that it was consensual sex because it's supposed that if you are a girl and you get raped, you are supposed to get suicide or be for the rest of your life home crying (ph).

FRAYER: That report was withdrawn two weeks into the trial. The five men don't deny having sex with the woman in an apartment building doorway, but they say it was consensual. I asked Varela if this case and the anger surrounding it tells us something about Spain's legal system.

VARELA: I don't think it's a Spanish thing. I'm sorry, but they could be North American or English or French. The important thing for me and for the feminist movement is that they are men, and there's a lot of men in the world that think that if they desire to have sex with a girl, you can get it. I think that is the question.

FRAYER: When the suspects did finally take the stand and testify, there were protests outside the courtroom in Pamplona, and there have been protests across the country.

VARELA: Yeah.

FRAYER: You've been at some of those protests. What's it been like?

VARELA: I don't know why, but I think this summer we have been discovering #MeToo and the sexual harassment in Hollywood and in everywhere. So I think now that we are in a contest that the Spanish society has understand that we have to ask the right of women to be free. And now women in Spain - but I think in any place of the world - we are not free. We can't go to the street without fear. I think it's the first time the Spanish society has understand it and not only the feminist movement.

FRAYER: The testimony has been graphic. It's been all over the Spanish media. Do you think the coverage has been fair? One of the defense lawyers said that these men were victims of a media witch hunt.

VARELA: I'm absolutely angry with the coverage that the media are doing about these idiots (ph) because they are talking about two sides. They are covering this case as this was an equal, moral position - one side, the guys; on the other side, the girl. And that is not the point. The point is that there is a girl going home after a party night, and there is five guys thinking that they can do to her everything they want sexually. So the moral equality is not real.

FRAYER: Testimony has finished. We're waiting for a verdict. Are you optimistic?

VARELA: I'm very worried because I believe that they should be condemned as guilty and 20 years for each one. But it's possible that they go free. It's a real possibility. So we in the feminist movement are ready for everything.

FRAYER: Irantzu Varela is a feminist organizer in Bilbao in Spain. Thank you so much.

VARELA: Thank you very much for listen to us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.