Brazilian footballer Alves' bid to suspend sexual assault trial rejected

The 40-year-old former Barca defender was arrested in January last year and has since been held on remand in a jail outside the city

Reuters
Published : 5 Feb 2024, 04:34 PM
Updated : 5 Feb 2024, 04:34 PM

A Spanish court on Monday rejected ex-Brazil footballer Dani Alves' argument that he had suffered trial by media and should be given more time to prepare for his criminal prosecution for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in Barcelona in 2022.

The 40-year-old former Barcelona defender was arrested in January last year and has since been held on remand in a jail outside the city.

The public prosecutor accuses Alves of forcing the woman to have sex and of not using a condom and is seeking a nine-year prison term and for Alves to pay damages worth 150,000 euros ($163,215) to his alleged victim.

Alves initially denied any sexual encounter with the woman whom he said he did not know. He later said he had consensual sex with her in the VIP bathroom of a nightclub, adding that he had denied it originally to protect his marriage.

Alves, dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt, sat on the front row in a courtroom at the Provincial Court of Barcelona, the highest in the province, as his trial began on Monday.

His mother, accompanied by one of his brothers, blew kisses and made a heart-shaped sign with her hands as Alves, handcuffed and escorted by police officers, entered the room.

The three-judge panel denied a request by Alves' lawyer Ines Guardiola for the trial to be suspended on the basis that he was not given enough time to prepare for his first police interview after his arrest and had suffered a parallel trial by media.

The case has attracted significant attention not only due to Alves' profile as one of the greatest players of all time.

Sexual assault is a dominant political theme in Spain, even more so after the alleged non-consensual kiss that then Spanish Football Federation chief Luis Rubiales planted on the lips of Jenni Hermosoafter the team's World Cup triumph last August.

Alves' trial is one of Spain's highest profile since a 2022 law from the socialist-led government made consent a key factor in sexual assault cases and increased minimum jail time for such assaults involving violence.

The law was prompted by the 2016 gang-rape of a teenager during the San Fermin bull-running festival after the five men were originally convicted by a lower court of sexual abuse, sparking mass protests. The country's top court subsequently ruled they were guilty of rape.

The case triggered national soul-searching on the topic that continues to this day as gender violence rates remain high.

In Spain, a claim of rape is now investigated under the general accusation of sexual assault, with rape as an aggravating factor.

The Alves trial is expected to last three days.

The alleged victim testified on Monday in a closed doors session. She talked from behind a screen, with her voice distorted to protect her identity.

A total of 30 people will give evidence, with Alves due to take the stand last.

Alves has won more than 40 trophies for Brazil and clubs including Barcelona, Sevilla, Juventus and Paris St Germain. Following his arrest, he was fired by Mexico's Pumas UNAM.