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Brazil’s Dani Alves gets 4-1/2 years for rape in Spain, will appeal

BRAZILIAN footballer Dani Alves was convicted of raping a woman in the restroom of a Barcelona nightclub in 2022 and sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison, which he will appeal.

The top court in Spain’s Catalonia region also ordered Alves, who has been jailed on remand for over a year and repeatedly changed his story, to pay 150,000 euros ($163,000) to the victim.

“The sentence considers it has been proven that the victim did not consent and that there is evidence, in addition to the testimony of the plaintiff, to consider the rape proven,” the court said in a statement.

Once his prison term ends, Alves, 40, will also face five years of freedom under probation.

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But he will soon be able to request leave for short periods from the prison near Barcelona where he is being held once he has served a quarter of the sentence and meets other requirements, a court official said.

The court said that as well as the victim’s testimony, it was considered as evidence that she suffered a knee injury after Alves pushed her to the floor, as well as Alves’ behaviour and hers following the event and the fact she suffered after-effects.

The prosecutor had sought a nine-year prison term for Alves and the victim requested 12 years but the court landed on 4-1/2 years, saying it considered as a mitigating factor that he had opted to pay the victim the compensation regardless of the outcome of the trial.

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Alves’ lawyer Ines Guardiola told reporters outside the court that her legal team was going to appeal.

“I still believe Alves is innocent,” she said, adding that her client was “coping well.”

The former Barcelona defender was arrested in January last year and has been in prison since then. He was taken to the courthouse on Thursday to hear the ruling, which came two weeks after the trial had concluded.

Alves changed his version of events several times. He initially denied knowing the woman, then said she had only performed oral sex on him and eventually admitted to full intercourse but Alves claimed it was consensual.

DOMINANT TOPIC

The case has attracted significant attention not only due to Alves’ profile but also because gender violence has become an increasingly dominant topic in Spain’s public discourse.

It has been one of the most high-profile trials in Spain since a law was passed in 2022 that made consent a key element in sexual assault cases and widened the range of prison time.

Alves benefited from this law, introduced by Spain’s socialist-led government, as it carried a lower minimum sentence and reduced sentencing due to mitigating factors, a result of merging the formerly distinct felonies of sexual abuse and aggression.

The law had to be amended in 2023 to remove a loophole which was used by hundreds of convicted rapists to reduce their prison terms or win early release, triggering a political storm.

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Equality Minister Ana Redondo told reporters the Alves ruling showed the law was working as it placed “consent at the centre of sexual relationships”.

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But Redondo added, without elaborating, that she would seek to improve the law to give maximum protection.

In the sentence, the court concluded that the victim voluntarily entered the nightclub’s VIP restroom, but stressed that even if she was seen dancing closely with Alves publicly beforehand that did not imply she was giving her consent to everything that happened afterwards.

“The sentence recognises what we’ve been saying all along that the victim was telling the truth and that she suffered,” her lawyer David Saenz told reporters.

Alves, one of the most successful footballers in history having won more than 40 trophies for his country and clubs like Juventus, Paris St Germain and Barcelona, joined Mexican side Pumas UNAM in 2022 for a reported 300,000 euros monthly salary. The club terminated his contract after his arrest.

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By JOAN FAUS

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