The “other” Pamplona gang rape trial

The defense in the Sanfermines rape case is complaining about parallel process outside the court, while using the media to mount its own sideshow

Manuel Jabois
Demonstrators outside the Pamplona court.
Demonstrators outside the Pamplona court.MIGUEL RIOPA (AFP)

It is 12.30pm, and three women in their eighties are sitting in the sun outside the Pamplona courthouse that is trying the case of an alleged gang rape during last year’s Running of the Bulls.

“Did you see the news? They’ve just released the lady who burnt her daughter’s rapist alive,” says one. The lady in question is María del Carmen García, who was approached on the street one day in 2005 by the rapist, who was out of prison by then. María del Carmen went over to a gas station, bought gasoline, and doused the man with the liquid before setting him on fire with a match. He died a few days later.

For a defense lawyer, this case is like a piece of candy

Seville lawyer

“Look, if they raped my girl, I would do the same thing,” says one of the friends. The third disagrees. “You can’t do things that way. What’s the law there for? Imagine if we all took the law into our hands.”

All three women are here because they have answered the call made by two feminist organizations, Lunes Lilas and Andrea, to demonstrate in support of a young woman who reported being raped by five men in July 2016, during the Sanfermines bull-running fiestas in Pamplona.

“You’re not alone, sister, your ‘pack’ is here,” scream around 500 demonstrators. The five accused in the case are inside the courtroom today – five men in their twenties who like to go by the name of La Manada – or “the pack.”

Agustín Martínez Becerra, the defense lawyer for three of the accused.
Agustín Martínez Becerra, the defense lawyer for three of the accused.JDIGES (EFE)

A local television reporter approaches a man who is holding up a sign that reads “No means no.” The man begins to make a statement: “We need to remember that those on trial include a Civil Guard and a member of the Spanish state military. The Spanish state will not allow them to be convicted; the Spanish state is behind....”

The loud chanting interrupts him. And that’s not all: it also interrupts the trial going on inside. A recess is announced because of the noise. This is good news for Agustín Martínez Becerra, the defense lawyer for three of the accused – or at least that’s what he says.

Martínez Becerra has been complaining about a parallel trial taking place outside the courthouse, among public opinion. Ironically, he is the person who has best grasped the concept of a “show trial.” He has been talking to reporters and participating in broadcast debates, mounting a separate defense outside of the courthouse.

It was he who had the victim followed by private investigators after the alleged rape in order to evaluate the behavior of the then-18-year-old, and he who has been slipping in comments that cast doubts over the young woman’s character.

You’re not alone, sister, your ‘pack’ is here!

Demonstrators outside Pamplona court

Martínez Becerra also asked for the hearings to be public and open to the media, but the court ruled out this option. He allegedly gets along very poorly with the two other defense lawyers, a fact that has been detrimental to their strategies.

“It was a rural porn flick shot by five hicks,” he told the leader of Biris Norte, a hooligan group linked to Sevilla FC soccer club. The man in question is the best friend of José Ángel Prenda, one of the defendants, and he claims he told his friend to hire his own lawyer: Martínez Becerra.

The lawyer’s description of the alleged rape is part of the line that he has been delivering to journalists: that his clients are essentially a bunch of pigs and louts, but not a bunch of rapists. He is unflagging in his conviction that his clients will be acquitted. “The world is in for a surprise,” he tells anyone who will listen.

People who know him are certain that Martínez Becerra sees this high-profile trial as a chance to become a household name. “For a defense lawyer, this case is like a piece of candy: it is extremely complicated, and even if he achieves very little, he may consider it a victory. In any event, by the time the trial is over he will be a famous lawyer. This does not mean that he is a good lawyer, but he will be a lawyer in greater demand,” says a solicitor from Seville, who has coincided with Martínez Becerra at several trials.

By 1pm, the demonstration has broken up and silence has returned to the courthouse. But the road to downtown Pamplona is plastered with “Wanted”-type posters depicting the members of La Manada.

English version by Susana Urra.

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