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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Spanish court begins to hear testimony in Dani Alves’ assault trial

Two women testified on Monday that former Brazil footballer Dani Alves groped them before allegedly sexually assaulting their friend at a Barcelona nightclub in 2022, they told a court at the start of a trial in the Spanish city.

A friend and a cousin of the complainant, who were at the club with her that night, told the court Alves invited them over to the VIP area where he was with a friend.

In emotional testimonies, they said Alves groped them and flirted with the complainant before they described the aftermath of the alleged assault. The court did not disclose their names.

“[Alves] had a creepy attitude. I felt tense,” said the friend.

Earlier on Monday, the court denied a request from Alves’ lawyer Ines Guardiola that the trial 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 40-year-old former Barcelona defender was arrested in January last year and has since been held on remand.

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 restroom of a nightclub, adding that he had denied it originally to protect his marriage.

Whether he had forced or consensual sex with the woman lies at the heart of the trial at Barcelona’s Provincial Court.

The public prosecutor in the case 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 ($163,215) to his alleged victim.

The complainant’s cousin said she had not even kissed Alves before leaving the public area and was not aware she was entering a restroom where the alleged assault took place when he insisted they move to another area.

After around 15 minutes, Alves left the restroom and a couple of minutes later the complainant followed, looking “devastated”, the cousin said.

“She said she needed to go. We left to get our coats from the concierge and before getting there my cousin told me (Alves) had hurt her a lot and had ejaculated inside of her,” the witness said.

Alves, dressed in blue jeans, a white shirt and dark jacket, sat impassively on the front row of the courtroom during the testimony.

Both witnesses said their friend was initially reluctant to file a complaint because of concern she would not be believed. She has lost a lot of weight, cannot work and has suffered from anxiety since then, barely leaving her house, they added.

The complainant testified earlier on Monday in a closed doors session, talking from behind a screen with her voice distorted to protect her identity.

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

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.

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