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MADRID — A Spanish court on Thursday sentenced five men to prison terms in the sexual assault of an unconscious year-old girl, but the men were convicted on a lesser charge of sexual abuse after the court ruled that they did not use violence during the attack. Those men were later subjected to harsher punishment amid vows of judicial reform. The attack took place three years ago in Manresa, a town in the northeastern region of Catalonia, and seven men went on trial last July in Barcelona.
On Thursday, the court sentenced five of them to 10 to 12 years each in prison for sexual abuse without aggression. A sixth defendant was found not to have been involved in the assault, and a seventh was cleared after initially being charged with failing to help her. The Manresa trial began weeks after the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling , overturned the verdict of a lower court in the Pamplona case, in which an year-old woman was gang raped during the running of the bulls.
The lower court had found those five defendants guilty of a lesser charge of sexual abuse and sentenced them to nine years in prison, setting off a public outcry. The latest trial has renewed a bitter public debate, and the police had to intervene to prevent a relative of the young victim from assaulting one of the defendants outside the courtroom.
Public prosecutors initially recommended that the men be found guilty of sexual abuse rather than rape because the teenage victim had been drunk, had possibly taken drugs and, they said, did not oppose the attack.
But they later toughened the charges after hearing testimony from the victim. The victim told the court that although she could not recall every detail of the assault, she had flashbacks about the attack. She also said that she felt intimidated and fearful because the men appeared to have a gun. It turned out to be a fake. The assault took place in an abandoned building during an outdoor party in Manresa in October The men said they had seen the victim at the party, and one persuaded her to accompany him into the building.