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Dani Alves denies alleged sexual assault in trial testimony

Brazilian soccer star Dani Alves denied accusations that he sexually assaulted a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub, in testifying before a court on Wednesday.

After two days of listening to testimony from the young woman, witnesses, police and experts, Alves told the court that their encounter was consensual. The woman testified that Alves raped her in a bathroom of an upscale Barcelona nightclub early in the morning of Dec. 31, 2022.

“I am not that type of man,” Alves said in response to his defense lawyer asking if he had forced her to have sexual relations.

The woman who pressed charges told state prosecutors that she danced with Alves and willingly entered the bathroom, but that later when she wanted to leave he would not let her. She said he slapped her, insulted her and forced her to have sexual relations against her will.

Alves denied that.

“We were both enjoying ourselves,” Alves said, while repeatedly saying that the woman never asked to leave or made any indication that she did not want to have sexual relations with him. He also denied having slapped or insulted her.

The state prosecutor concluded her arguments by saying that “we understand that [the accuser’s] version is completely believable.”

State prosecutors are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for Alves if convicted while the lawyers representing his accuser want 12 years. His defense asked for his absolution, or if found guilty a one-year sentence plus €50,000 ($54,000) compensation for the victim.

The 40-year-old Alves was escorted in handcuffs into the small courtroom wearing a long-sleeve white sweater, dark trousers and glasses. His mother was present outside, as she has been the entire trial. His wife was only there Tuesday when she testified that he had arrived home “smelling of alcohol” after the alleged assault.

The three-day trial concludes Wednesday. A verdict normally takes weeks to be delivered.

The woman testified on Monday behind closed doors on order of the court. State prosecutors asked for the court to take extra measures to protect her identity after a video circulated on social media last month that allegedly identified the woman.

A friend and cousin of the woman who went dancing with her that night told the three-judge panel Monday that after she exited the bathroom she was distraught and told them Alves “hurt her badly” by sexually assaulting her.

Police officers who attended to the woman testified she was greatly shaken and told them she had been sexually assaulted by Alves. The officers said Tuesday she had to overcome her fears that “nobody would believe her” before she formally accused Alves. Another officer said the woman told him “I don’t want money, I want justice.”

Alves’ friend who was with him that night said the soccer player drank wine and whiskey before going to the nightclub. Being drunk can be considered an extenuating factor by a court and lead to a shorter prison sentence.

According to his friend, Alves and the woman pressing charges danced together and showed “chemistry” before going into the bathroom and that he hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the woman afterward.

A forensic psychologist who examined the woman testified Wednesday that she was suffering from “post-traumatic” symptoms, a conclusion that was disputed by an outside expert called by the defense.

Alves has been in pre-trial jail since being detained on Jan. 20, 2023. His requests for bail were denied because the court considered him a flight risk, despite his offer to hand over his passport and wear a tracking device. Brazil does not extradite its own citizens when they are sentenced in other countries.

Alves modified his defense during the investigative phase while in custody.

At first, he denied any sexual contact with her, only to later admit to a sexual encounter that he said was consented to by the woman. He said he had been trying to save his marriage by not admitting to the sexual encounter initially.

Alves was ordered before the trial to set aside €150,000 ($162,000) to pay the woman if he is found guilty and ordered to pay damages.

This is the first high-profile sex crime trial since Spain overhauled its legislation in 2022 to make consent, or the lack thereof, central to defining a sex crime in response to an upswell of protests after a gang-rape case during the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016. The legislation popularly known as the “only yes means yes” law defines consent as an explicit expression of a person’s will, making it clear that silence or passivity do not equal consent.

Under the law, the crime of sexual assault takes in a wide array of crimes from online abuse and groping to rape, each with different punishments.

Alves won major titles with elite clubs including Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He also helped Brazil win two Copa Americas and an Olympic gold medal at age 38. He played at his third World Cup, the only major title he’s not won, in 2022. He played for Barcelona from 2008-16 and briefly rejoined the club in 2022. He still has a residence near the city.

Alves’ contract with Mexican club Pumas was terminated immediately after his arrest.

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