Citizens and political leaders denounced the decision to release the five men just three months after judges convicted them on lesser charges. Protests were held in cities across Spain.
A wave of indignation in Spain has led to a second day of protests on Friday, after five men who had been sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman during the running of the bulls festival in the city of Pamplona were released on bail on Thursday.
The "Wolf Pack," as the men called themselves in a WhatsApp messaging group, was acquitted in April of sexual assault, including rape, and convicted with the lesser sentence of sexual abuse. The ruling sparked widespread protests in a case that shocked Spain and rallied women's rights activists.
According to the judges, the men were absolved from the more serious charge of sexual assault on the basis that the victim had not been subjected to intimidation or violence.
After appealing their jail sentence, a Pamplona court let all five men go free on a bail of €6,000 ($7,000), pending the outcome of the appeal. The court argued that it had granted the bail because the current social pressure on them made it "practically unthinkable" they would risk reoffending.
A woman holds a sign at a protest in Madrid that reads "trash belongs in the dump, not on the steet," in reference to the release of the men.
Protesters took to the streets in Madrid two days in a row and on Thursday, demonstrators expressed their outrage in other cities, including Pamplona, Bilbao, Barcelona, Granada, Seville and Malaga.
During the demonstrations, protesters held banners reading "No is no. Justice!" and chanting "We women do believe you," a rallying cry that has become synonymous with the #metoo movement in Spain.
Politicians share outrage
The ruling and Thursday's release on bail were criticized by Spanish political leaders.
The mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asiron, said on Friday that there appeared to be "a growing distance between society itself and certain decisions taken by the courts," and pledged that his office would appeal the decision to release the five men.
The Spanish government, led by Socialist party and its leader Pedro Sanchez, said it respected the ruling, but "echoed the social concern" that it had generated.
Center-right People's Party (PP), which was in power when the sentencing took place in April, also said it respected the ruling, but rejected that the men were released, casting the blame on the "slow pace of the justice system."
PP's criticism noted the fact that the men had been in preventive custody for two years, the maximum that the court allows and that this expiration was the main reason they were set free.
Patricia Reyes of the liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens) party called the bail outcome "outrageous," while the left-wing party PODEMOS criticized the decision as part of the "justice system's sexist bias."
The government of Pedro Sanchez, who recently took office this month, has proposed training magistrates to raise their awareness about violence against women.
jcg/sms (EFE, dpa, Reuters)