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Dani Alves trial: Ex-Barcelona and Brazil star testifies on final day in court

Warning: contains graphic detail of an alleged crime

Dani Alves crossed the corridor separating the cells from the courtroom surrounded by police officers and with his hands tied. He was wearing a white turtleneck jumper and the glasses he had worn the day before.

The crowd in the hall of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia suddenly fell silent. It was only the second time that accredited media had been able to see him in person, and he had previously been transferred from the cells up to the courtroom via a lift to which only the police had access.

“Do you feel like talking?” a member of the press asked. Alves nodded.

Wednesday was the final day of Alves’ trial for allegedly raping a 23-year-old woman on the night of December 30, 2022 at the Sutton nightclub in Barcelona. The former Barcelona and Brazil player has repeatedly denied the charges against him.

On Monday, five people testified: the alleged victim, her friend, her cousin, and a waiter and a doorman from the nightclub. On Monday morning, Alves’ defence team requested that he testify last and on the trial’s final day.

Tuesday saw 21 witnesses take the stand. Among the most prominent were Joana Sanz, Alves’ wife, and Bruno Brasil, the friend who was with the footballer on the night in question.

Alves, 40, spoke towards the end of Wednesdays proceedings, at which several forensic, medical and psychological experts also testified. He invoked his right to be questioned only by his lawyer and not by the alleged victim’s lawyer.

He began his statement by saying that on December 30 2022 he met three friends for lunch at the restaurant ‘La Taverna del Clinic’. He said they arrived at 2:30pm and that they ordered five bottles of wine and a bottle of Japanese whisky. He said he drank two bottles of wine and “several glasses of whisky”.

According to his account, they then went to the Nuba nightclub, in an uptown area of Barcelona and had a round of gin and tonics. His friend Bruno drove him there, because he was not in a fit state to do so himself due to the alcohol he had consumed, he said.

Afterwards they decided to go to the Sutton club, but only he and Bruno went. Their two companions decided not to go with them.

They arrived there at 2.30am, Alves said, and Brasil went to park while he went into the club and let the club staff escort him to a VIP booth. He said he chose table six because it was the only one with a private bathroom. Because of who he was, he did not want to have to cross the room to go to the bathroom, he said.

Two girls arrived there, and were with them for a while, until Alves’ friend Bruno invited the alleged victim and her two companions to join them.

According to Alves, he “was dancing with them” and “was close to them because I am a very close person, but I did it out of respect”. This contrasts with the testimonies of the woman’s cousin and her friend, who said on Monday that they felt uncomfortable in front of ”a person with a slimy attitude who tried to touch their ass and their intimate area”.

Alves, pictured in court on Monday (Jordi Borras/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Alves continued: “The complainant and I started to dance closer together. We were interacting, having a good time. We were getting closer and closer, she was sticking her parts with mine. We were having a good time, something typical of a nightclub.

“She put her hands on my private parts. I saw that there was sexual attraction, I started talking to her about going to the bathroom. She said yes. I didn’t have to insist.

“When I got to the bathroom I waited for a while. I thought she wasn’t going to come, that she didn’t want to. When I went to leave, she came in and I almost bumped into her.

“She unbuttoned my trousers and pulled them down. I sat on the toilet, she got on her knees in front of me and started to give me fellatio. After the fellatio, which was practically the whole time, she sat on top of me and I pushed her away when I went to ejaculate because I wanted to do it outside her.”

This is the version of events Alves gave, before he modified it after being questioned by his lawyer. After their intervention, he said that penetration took place after the woman had performed oral sex.

“She never said to me that she wanted to leave or to stop me,” Alves continued. “I didn’t slap her, I didn’t grab her by the hair or head or throw her on the floor. I didn’t call her a whore. I’m not that kind of man.” These were all allegations that the alleged victim made in her pre-trial testimony. Her testimony on Monday was only heard by members of the court.

Alves said that “at no point did she tell him she didn’t want to or to stop”, adding: “We were both enjoying ourselves.”

He then said that he asked her to wait to leave “so that people wouldn’t see them going out together”. He stayed there in the bathroom talking for a while longer and then left, claiming “not to have seen the complainant or her companions any more”. He was taken by car to his house, he said, where he found his wife sleeping. He went to the bathroom and went to sleep.

Alves became emotional as he recalled how he found out that he had been placed under investigation for alleged rape through the press. He became emotional again as he detailed how his bank accounts had been blocked and how it had left him “almost broke” in August.

Then it was time for the closing arguments, which lasted until 10pm local time.

The prosecution lawyer acting on behalf of the Spanish public prosecutor’s office gave her conclusions. She spoke of “the constant changes in Alves’ version” and contradictions in his statements.

She said that it would have been impossible for Alves and the woman to have had sex in the position he described because fingerprint evidence did not match that version, but did match that of the alleged victim.

She said the woman presented an emotional picture typical of this type of alleged sexual assault. She said that, during her statement, the woman began to cry on several occasions, remembering what allegedly happened inside the bathroom.

In response to a remark made by Alves’ defence team — if the three friends were so uncomfortable in the room, why didn’t they leave? — she stated: “Many women have felt uncomfortable in a ballroom and didn’t run away. It usually ends up as an anecdote about a slimy gentleman. We are not here for an anecdote, but for a very serious act.”

On the lack of injury to the woman’s vagina, she added that the alleged victim had said in her statement that at one point “she let herself go, thinking only that it would be over now”, and that this would explain the lack of injuries, although she insisted that many female victims of sexual assault do not have vaginal injuries, as had been earlier stated by forensic medical experts.

She described the alleged victim’s account as “tough, resilient and totally credible” and said she was “brave”. She also spoke of the reaction by staff at the Sutton club. “If they had not activated their (alleged sexual assault) protocol, this girl would have gone home without any evidence of what happened.”

In making their concluding remarks, Alves’ defence lawyer said: “We understand that there is no objective evidence. Alves has been in pre-trial detention for more than a year and we ask for his immediate freedom.”

“Do you want to add anything Mr. Alves?” the judge asked before closing the trial.

“No, thank you very much,” he replied.

With those words, the so-called “trial of the year” in Spain came to an end, after three days. The atmosphere in the surroundings of the court was of maximum tension throughout.

Some 270 professionals were accredited for this trial, from 70 different media, 23 of them foreign. It was an unparalleled attendance. The Athletic was there during its 18 hours.

It was impossible for the image of Alves, very thin, with hair loss and without the smile that once characterised him on the football pitch, not to strike you. Alves was one of the most beloved players during his time at Barcelona not just for his talent but cheerful personality during games.

The expectation in the trial was not only because of who Alves is, but also because in Spain it is the first big media trial after the ‘solo si es si’ (only yes means yes) law was established, a law that is intended to bring greater scrutiny and powers to prosecutors pursuing cases of alleged sexual assault. The law allows that the victim’s private life is not asked about and that the discourse only focuses on whether or not there was consent.

Many social commentators in Spain have characterised the law as one that can put an end to the so-called ‘powerful men’, one that can instead allow justice to be done for female victims who have previously gone unheard or been dismissed.

The trial has now concluded. On Wednesday no projected date was given for when the court will deliver its verdict, but it is expected to be made in a matter of weeks.

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. Until this week, he had 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 in December 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 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”.

Spanish public prosecutors are requesting a nine-year prison sentence for Alves. They are also asking for him to pay the alleged victim €150,000 (£130,500) in compensation and for him to not be allowed within one kilometre of the woman.

(Top photo: Alberto Estevez/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

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