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Five Cuban volleyball players jailed for gang rape in Finland

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Cuban volleyball team captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu (pictured) is one of five players who has been jailed for rape in Finland © AFP / Johannes Eisele

HELSNIKI, Finland, Sep 20 – A Finnish court on Tuesday jailed five members of Cuba’s national volleyball team for gang raping a woman during a Volleyball World League championship in July and filming the attack.

According to the charge sheet, four of the players subjected the woman, whose identity was not revealed, to an hour-and-a-half ordeal which they filmed and photographed.

These four, team captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu (27), Abrahan Alfonso Gavilan (21), Ricardo Calvo Manzano (19) and Osmany Uriarte Mestre (21) received five-year prison sentences for aggravated rape.

A fifth player, Luis Sosa Sierra (21), received a shorter sentence of three years and six months, while the court acquitted a sixth teammate, Dariel Albo Miranda (24).

The Pirkanmaa district court in southern Finland ruled the woman had met some of the players at a basement nightclub in the hotel where the Cuban team was staying during the tournament in Tampere on the night of July 2.

She later agreed to go upstairs to Uriarte Mestre’s room and the two had sex, at first with her consent.

But Uriarte Mestre then invited Calvo Manzano — followed by his other teammates — to the room without her consent, the court found.

According to the prosecutor, Uriarte Mestre, Calvo Manzano, Cepeda Abreu and Alfonso Gavilan “had together and in mutual understanding forced (the victim) to several acts of sexual intercourse by means of violence and by taking advantage of (her) fear and state of helplessness.”

The charge sheet said the men pulled her by her hair and held her by her neck, among other things, to stop her from leaving the room, while she screamed for them to stop.

The prosecutor said the victim’s ordeal lasted two and a half hours, but the court found the hotel’s video monitoring system showed the events took place within an hour and a half.

The Pirkanmaa district court in southern Finland ruled the woman had met some of the Cuban volleyball team at a nightclub where the team was staying in Tampere on the night of July 2 © Lehtikuva/AFP/File / Hannu Kivimaki

The players had denied the charges, saying the sex had been consensual.

The court handed Sosa Sierra a shorter sentence than the others because he raped her in another hotel room, without the others present.

– Missed Rio Olympics –

The court said meanwhile it had acquitted Dariel Albo Miranda as “significant doubt” persisted over his role in the events.

The court found no grounds to keep Albo Miranda in custody after the trial and he was released at the beginning of September, his lawyer Pirkka Lappalainen said.

“He immediately left the country to return to Cuba… I’ve understood he is with his family now,” Lappalainen told AFP.

He said Albo Miranda was considering the possibility of seeking damages from the Finnish state for the two-month deprivation of liberty.

The trial was held behind closed doors in Tampere to protect the victim.

The court said its decision was based both on the victim’s account and on evidence such as text messages the players had sent each other after the incident.

All of the players pleaded not guilty and claimed the victim was willing to have sex with them, but the court said their accounts of the events were partly contradictory and changed several times during the investigation.

In addition to the prison sentences, the court ordered the five players to pay the victim a total of 24,000 euros ($26,800) in damages.

Alfonso Gavilan’s lawyer told AFP his client would appeal the verdict, but it was not immediately known whether the four others would appeal.

The maximum jail sentence for aggravated rape in Finland is 10 years.

The players have been held in custody in Finland since early July. As a result, they missed the Olympic Games in Rio.

The remainder of the Cuban national team finished last in their group in Rio, with five straight defeats.

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