Warning: contains graphic detail of an alleged crime
Wearing a white shirt, bright blue jeans, looking thinner than before, with obvious hair loss and his head bowed, Dani Alves was barely recognisable as he appeared at the High Court of Justice in Barcelona.
After 381 days in pre-trial detention following his arrest for alleged sexual assault — a charge he has repeatedly denied — Alves arrived at court shortly before 10am on Monday. All the entrances to the building were surrounded by countless cameras and journalists, waiting for what had already been described in Spain as “the trial of the year”. Alves entered in a police van via an entrance to the rear of the building.
Proceedings were scheduled to start at 10am, but ended up beginning half an hour later.
The first to speak was the defendant’s lawyer, Ines Guardiola. Alves remained in the dock, his hands clasped and his expression a far cry from the smile that used to characterise the Brazilian during his playing days in the city for Barcelona.
He was followed by the alleged victim — who testified behind closed doors, spoke surrounded by folding screens to avoid seeing the accused and whose voice was distorted to avoid possible leaks that would reveal her identity. Also in court were her friend and her cousin, two waiters from the Sutton nightclub and the venue’s doorman. All of them were present on the night of December 30, 2022.
They were the first five of 28 witnesses due to testify in the three-day trial. Alves was also due to give evidence but in the end his appearance was put back until Wednesday.
Here, The Athletic reports on the key moments from the first day of Alves’ trial.
What is the allegation Alves is facing?
In January 2023, former Barcelona player Alves was arrested by local police investigating an alleged sexual assault in a nightclub in the Spanish city.
Alves, who played 408 matches for Barca across two spells, as well as 126 times for Brazil, has been in custody since his arrest on January 20, 2023. He has been held in a prison to the north-west of Barcelona.
The Spanish public prosecutor’s office alleges Alves raped a 23-year-old woman in the Sutton nightclub in Barcelona on December 30, 2022.
Alves has repeatedly denied the allegation, including at several appeal hearings. He has given different versions of events to investigators and, in an interview in June, admitted initially “lying” about what happened.
When first giving his version of events, Alves denied that sexual penetration had taken place, saying the woman had performed oral sex on him.
On April 17 last year, the second time he testified before the investigating judge, he said sexual penetration did take place, but that it was consensual. Alves admitted lying in previous statements “to save my marriage from infidelity”.
Who gave evidence and what did they say?
Guardiola was the first to speak. This is the third lawyer the Brazilian has had in a year.
Alves’ defence presented its allegations of violation of fundamental rights and a fair trial. The lawyer requested the suspension of the trial on the grounds the defendant had already suffered a “parallel trial” in the media that has violated his presumption of innocence.
She submitted 450 newspaper articles in which she considers he has been publicly condemned and labelled as a “sex aggressor”.
She also complained that his first lawyer had less than two hours to become familiar with the case and prepare the statement when Alves was arrested.
“He never had the opportunity to defend himself effectively during the pre-trial phase,” she said.
The lawyer asked that, if it was not possible to adjourn the trial, her client be allowed to testify on the last day when all the witnesses had already testified, instead of on Monday morning.
The prosecution argued that the Brazilian’s fundamental rights had not been violated because the investigation had been carried out correctly. Regarding the “parallel trial”, the prosecution said the case had become so high profile because of Alves’ status and claimed there were leaks to the press on both sides.
After a half-hour recess, the court accepted Alves should testify on the last day knowing all the evidence against him but refused to annul the trial as the defendant’s defence requested.
Then it was the turn of the alleged victim. She testified behind closed doors and the press could not have access to her statement. The only thing that could be known is that she did so surrounded by a folding screen to avoid seeing Alves and to keep her identity protected, as well as distorting her voice to avoid leaks in which she could be recognised.
The statement lasted an hour and a quarter. Meanwhile, Alves’ mother — Lucia Alves, who despite the defence’s decision not to have her testify after she leaked the identity of the alleged victim, was present to support her son along with other family members — told the press that she had seen her son “strong”.
Then it was the turn of the alleged victim’s friend.
Both she and the cousin of the alleged victim — who was the next to testify about the night of the alleged events — agreed with her account. According to their version of events, they met for dinner at their friend’s house and went out for drinks.
According to them, they went to a bar where, if they ordered a drink, they were given a wristband that was worth a ticket to the Sutton nightclub. They went in at 2.15am and started dancing in the general area.
A group of Mexican men approached them and invited them to the VIP area. After a short while, a waiter from Sutton appeared and told them Alves was inviting them to share a drink in his reserved area, table six.
They declined the invitation and the waiter came back to tell them that Alves insisted.
They went there and there were two girls with the defendant and his friend Bruno Basil.
The friend described Alves’ attitude as “that of a slimy person”. “I greeted him and he put his hand on my back, put his hand down and almost touched my ass. He had a slimy attitude. I didn’t like his attitude and I went to the other side of the table, more alone. I stayed there the whole time,” she said.
She said she noticed the same attitude with her two friends, but that with the alleged victim he became more obsessive than with the other two.
“At that moment I didn’t think about them, I thought about myself and walking away, I was selfish,” she said in tears afterwards, when asked by Alves’ defence why she had not warned her friends about the attitude.
The alleged victim’s cousin later testified that, although everything was fine at first, “they started to make them uncomfortable after a while”. “They were dancing very close, they touched us… They put their hands on my intimate area.” “Who?” asked the lawyer for the prosecution. “Dani Alves,” she replied.
The cousin explained how the alleged victim warned her that Alves was inviting her to go to a place “she didn’t know about” and that “she didn’t want to go”. In the end, she said Alves disappeared through a doorway and that neither the cousin nor her friend knew where it led. After a few minutes, the alleged victim did the same.
The cousin, the friend and Alves’ friend Bruno were left alone. Bruno allegedly asked the friend if she wanted them to enter the room where the footballer and the alleged victim were.
“You go in, he’s your friend,” she said. “You go in, she’s your friend,” he replied.
The alleged victim’s friend explained that she did not understand what he meant and went alone to the bathroom downstairs. “I didn’t know there was a bathroom in that reserved room,” she said, maintaining that neither she nor the alleged victim knew what the room next door was.
While she was in the bathroom, Alves left the room. After a while, the alleged victim did likewise.
“She looked really bad,” the alleged victim’s cousin explained, bursting into tears for a few minutes at the memory. “I asked her if she was OK and if she wanted us to leave. She told me she needed to leave. I wrote (texted) to my friend and told her she needed to leave. We went to the cloakroom because we had the jackets in there and before we got there my cousin started saying he (Alves) had hurt her so much and that she had come inside.”
The friend explained that she received a text message from the cousin (and started crying too). “I knew something had happened.”
Both told how a doorman met the alleged victim at the entrance, and upon hearing her, they activated the nightclub’s sexual assault protocol. They took refuge in a more private room and called the Mossos de Esquadra (Catalan police).
“I’ve known her since she was three years old, I’ve never seen her cry like this. She was crying inconsolably,” explained the alleged victim’s friend.
“She was more nervous, the three of us were crying. She was dissociating, she wanted to leave. We convinced her not to leave and to report. She said no one would believe her because she went into the bathroom.
“She came to her senses. They activated the protocol and we went to Hospital Clínic. She went by ambulance.”
When asked about the victim’s current state of health, they both said she is not well, that she has had to stop working, that she practically never leaves the house, that she has to take medication to sleep and takes anti-depressants — emphasising that previously she did not take either — and that she has reduced her circle of friends.
The friend explained that the alleged victim has had to receive psychiatric help since Alves’ mother leaked her identity and that she does not leave the house “because if she goes out she becomes obsessive thinking that people are watching her, that they are following her, that they are going to take photos of her”.
They explained that it was very difficult for her to report it “because she thought that nobody would believe her because she went into the room of her own free will”.
Her cousin, when asked if Alves smelled of alcohol, said: “I didn’t notice that he smelled particularly of alcohol. Nobody drank while we were there. We had our drinks but I didn’t see anyone drinking a lot.”
Alves’ lawyer asked the alleged victim’s friend if “she had ever gone out partying with the alleged victim and if she had left with a guy at the end of the night?”.
The friend affirmed the former and denied the latter.
Then it was the turn of the waiters. The first waiter to speak said it was Bruno, Alves’ friend, who nodded to him to invite the alleged victim and her friends to have a drink with them, and said that “he had already done it with other women”.
Then it was the doorman’s turn. He agreed with the statement of the alleged victim’s cousin and friend and stated that Alves “passed a metre away from the alleged victim as he left without saying anything to her”, despite being in a state of shock and crying inconsolably.
What is coming up on Tuesday?
At 3pm on Tuesday it will be the turn of 22 other people to testify, including Joana Sanz — Alves’ wife — and Bruno, the friend who was with Alves in Sutton on December 30.
Alves denies the charge against him and the trial continues.
(Top photo: Jordi Borras/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
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