BARCELONA, Spain — After being escorted in handcuffs into the Barcelona courtroom, Dani Alves sat in silence and listened to a stream of witnesses give testimony during the second day of his sexual assault trial on Tuesday.
Alves is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the bathroom of an upscale Barcelona nightclub early in the morning of Dec. 31, 2022.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
State prosecutors are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for Alves if convicted while the lawyers representing his accuser want 12 years.
His accuser testified on Monday, the start of the three-day trial, 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.
In testimony previously given to state prosecutors last year, the woman said she met Alves in a VIP area of the Sutton nightclub after midnight where she had gone with a friend and a cousin. She said she accompanied Alves into a private bathroom where he allegedly slapped her, used insulting language and raped her.
Alves has said the encounter was consented by her.
The woman’s friend and cousin testified on Monday that when they saw her after she exited the bathroom she was distraught and told them Alves “hurt her badly” by forcing her to have intercourse without her consent.
On Tuesday, police officers who attended to the alleged victim testified she was greatly shaken and told them she had been sexually assaulted by Alves. The officers said she had to overcome her fears that “nobody would believe her” before she formally denounced Alves.
One officer said the woman told him “I don’t want money, I want justice.”
The nightclub manager, who activated a sexual assault protocol by counseling the woman and calling police, said she told him she entered the bathroom with Alves “voluntarily but later she wanted to leave and he would not let her.”
Alves’ friend, who was also an employee of the Mexican soccer club Pumas where Alves was playing, also testified. The friend, who accompanied Alves that night, said Alves drank wine and whiskey before going to the nightclub. According to his friend, Alves and the alleged victim danced together and showed “chemistry” before going into the bathroom. He said he hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the woman afterward.
Alves’ wife, Joana Sanz, told the court that Alves was “smelling of alcohol” when he arrived to their home outside Barcelona early in the morning. Sanz, Alves’ wife since 2017, said that she has not legally requested a divorce, after having said that she wanted one after the scandal broke.
Alves will have his turn to speak to the three-judge panel on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old 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 several times during the investigative phase while in custody.
At first, he denied having ever seen the woman when he went dancing on the night in question. Upon his arrest, he then 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 has been ordered to set aside 150,000 euros ($162,000) to pay his alleged victim 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. Rape can carry a maximum sentence of 15 years.
On arriving at the courtroom under police escort, Alves shrugged his shoulders when asked by reporters if he thought he would be found innocent.
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.
Alves’ contract with Pumas was terminated immediately after his arrest.
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