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Brazilian footballer Dani Alves goes on trial in Spain accused of sexual assault

Brazilian football star Dani Alves sits in court during his trial in Barcelona (Alberto Estevez/Pool Photo via AP)
Brazilian football star Dani Alves sits in court during his trial in Barcelona (Alberto Estevez/Pool Photo via AP)

Brazilian football star Dani Alves went on trial in Spain on Monday, a year after he allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub.

Alves, a former Barcelona player, is accused of sexually assaulting the woman on the night of December 31, 2022. He denies any wrongdoing.

After arriving in a police van, Alves took a seat in the courtroom dressed in a white dress shirt and a pair of jeans. His mother was also present at the Barcelona courthouse. The trial is scheduled to run through to Wednesday.

State prosecutors are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for Alves if convicted while the lawyers representing his accuser want 12 years.

Under Spain’s 2022 sexual consent law, the crime of sexual assault takes in a wide array of crimes from online abuse and groping to rape, each with different possible punishments. A case of rape can carry a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Alves, now 40, was arrested on January 20 2023 after answering a police summons during a visit to Spain. A court ordered him to be jailed after analysing the initial police investigation and hearing testimony from the alleged victim, witnesses and the player himself.

Three days after his arrest, Alves was transferred by officials for safety reasons to the Brians 2 prison about 45 minutes northwest of Barcelona. He has been there ever since.

Alves’ requests for bail were denied because the court considered him a flight risk, even though he offered to hand over his passport and wear a tracking device. Brazil does not extradite its own citizens when they are sentenced in other countries.

In evidence given to state prosecutors, the woman said she met Alves late at the Sutton nightclub in one of Barcelona’s upscale neighbourhoods after midnight. She accompanied him into a VIP area and into a private bathroom where he allegedly slapped her, used insulting language and raped her, according to her testimony.

Two women, a friend and a cousin, who accompanied the woman to the nightclub gave evidence that when they saw her after she left the bathroom she was distraught and told them that Alves had “hurt her badly”. Workers at the nightclub also gave evidence.

Alves will give evidence on Wednesday, the trial’s last day.

Before he was indicted by an investigative judge in August, Alves’ lawyers unsuccessfully tried to discredit evidence by his accuser and other witnesses by presenting security camera footage at the nightclub. The court has said that any alleged flirting should not “in any way justify an eventual sexual assault”.

Alves has modified his defence several times.

At first, he denied having ever seen the woman when he went dancing on the night in question.

Upon his arrest, he denied any sexual contact with her, only to admit three months later 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.

Spain Soccer Dani Alves Sexual Assault Trial
Dani Alves in court during his trial in Barcelona on Monday (D Zorrakino/Pool Photo via AP)

In the only interview Alves has given since his arrest, he told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia in June that “my conscience is clear about what happened that early morning … What happened and what did not happen. And what did not happen is that I forced that woman to do what we did.”

Alves, whose legal name is Daniel Alves, has changed lawyers three times. At the trial he will be represented by Ines Guardiola, a defence specialist who was hired in October.

The alleged victim is represented by Ester Garcia, a specialist in prosecuting sex crimes.

The trial is being held before a three-judge panel presided over by magistrate Isabel Delgado. Twenty-eight witnesses will give testimony between Monday and Tuesday before the court hears experts on Wednesday.

The court has ordered that the accuser’s evidence will be behind closed doors and that no image of her can be taken to protect her identity. That decision came after a video circulated on social media last month that allegedly identified the woman.

A screen was placed between the accuser and Alves when she gave evidence and the court ordered that the video recording of her testimony be pixelated and her voice distorted as preventative measures to ensure her privacy in the case of a leak.

Alves has been ordered to set aside 150,000 euros (£128,349) to pay his alleged victim if he is found guilty and ordered to pay damages.

Alves’ arrest shattered his image of a charismatic winner with a lengthy and successful career.

He won major titles with several elite clubs, including Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He also helped Brazil win two Copa America trophies and an Olympic gold medal at age 38. He played at his third World Cup, the only major title he has not won, in 2022.

The right back was a key part of Barcelona’s golden years playing between 2008-16 as a teammate of Lionel Messi. He won the Champions League three times during that stretch with the Catalan club, which he briefly rejoined in 2022.

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