The men, aged 18 to 21, who were jailed for between 10 and 12 years, avoided conviction for the more serious charge of rape, which carries a harsher sentence, because the court ruled that the the victim was unconscious and therefore wasn't forcibly assaulted. The court heard that the men took turns to have sex with the teenager after a party in Manresa, a town 45 miles north of Barcelona in the northeastern region of Catalonia, in October 2016.
The case has sparked protests in Spain over the country's sexual-offenses laws, which critics say are outdated and fail to adequately protect victims. Under Spanish law, the perpetrator must use violence against or intimidate the victim for the act to qualify as rape or sexual assault.
While the public prosecutor had called for the defendants to be charged with rape, the court ultimately ruled that it was only sexual abuse because the teenager was in an "unconscious state" and didn't fight back as the legal definition requires.
The incident — in which five men aged 19 to 26 were accused of taking turns gang-raping the minor while another man watched and masturbated — took place in an abandoned factory in October 2016 during a party that involved drugs and alcohol. The victim was reportedly intoxicated and told the court she only remembered parts of the alleged assault. The public prosecutor said that one of the defendants knew the victim, as well as her age and that she was intoxicated at the party, according to Spanish media El Pais.
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