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Five Cuban volleyball players jailed for rape in Finland

Cuba captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu (left) was one of the five athletes to be convicted by a Finnish court Photograph: (AFP)

Helsinki, Finland Sep 20, 2016, 08.57 AM (IST)

Five members of Cuba's national volleyball team were jailed on Tuesday in Finland for a gang rape that took place during a Volleyball World League championship in July, a district court said.

Four players, including 27-year-old team captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu, Abrahan Alfonso Gavilan, 21, Ricardo Calvo Manzano, 19, and Osmany Uriarte Mestre, 21, were handed 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 a sixth teammate, Dariel Albo Miranda, 24, was acquitted of the same charge.

The Pirkanmaa district court said the Finnish woman, whose identity was not disclosed, met some of the players at a nightclub located in the basement of the hotel where the Cuban team was staying during the tournament in the southern town of 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 "in hotel room 923 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 revealed the men pulled her by her hair and held her by her neck, among other things, to stop her from leaving the room. They also filmed and photographed parts of the attack, which lasted two and a half hours in total.

Missed Rio Olympics

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

The trial was held behind closed doors 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 players pleaded not guilty and claimed the victim was willing to have sex with all of them, but the court said their accounts of 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 sentence for aggravated rape in Finland is 10 years in prison. 

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

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


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