HELSINKI – Five Cuban volleyball players on Tuesday were
convicted of raping a Finnish woman during the Volleyball World
League championship in Tampere, Finland.
A court in Tampere handed four of the players _ Rolando Cepeda
Abreu, Abraham Alfonso Gavilan, Ricardo Norberto Calvo Manzano
and Osmany Santiago Uriarte Mestre _ a five-year jail term, and
sentenced a fifth _ Luis Tomas Sosa Sierra _ to three-and-a-half
years in prison.
The convicts were also ordered to pay 24,000 euros ($26,810) in
crime victim compensation.
According to the court's decision, three of those convicted
admitted during trial to having had sexual intercourse with the
victim, although they claimed it had been with her consent,
something she consistently denied.
The other two athletes denied having had any sexual contact with
the victim, although the court did not believe their sworn
statements and also sentenced them on aggravated rape charges.
The court said the statements by the accused during both their
questioning and the trial were contradictory, which undermined
the credibility of their version of the events.
On the other hand, the court absolved a sixth Cuban athlete,
Dariel Albo Miranda, from having participated in the same crime.
Miranda was exonerated due to lack of evidence, and he returned
to Cuba following his hearing in court.
According to the court, Miranda had recommended his colleagues
hide any trace of the crime, but his participation in the rape
could not be proven.
The felony was committed on July 2 in a hotel in Tampere, 180
kilometers (112 miles) to the north of Helsinki, where the Cuban
national volleyball team was lodged during its visit to Finland
to take part in the FIVB Volleyball World League.
According to a witness cited by local media, one of the Cuban
players approached the victim after midnight outside the hotel,
near a busy nightclub.
Later in the night, the victim accompanied the player to his
room, where his roommate was waiting, and other members of the
national team soon joined.
In the early hours of the morning, the victim reported the gang
rape crime to local police, who over the weekend arrested a
total of eight players.
After questioning all suspects, police freed two of the athletes
without charging them, while requesting pre-trial detention for
the other six.
A few days later, a court ordered the accused be jailed until
their trial, due to a high risk of them fleeing the country and
the serious nature of the alleged crime.
A court hearing was held before an investigating magistrate
behind closed doors between August 29-31 in Tampere with the aid
of several Spanish interpreters.
After their hearings, the court ordered the immediate release of
Dariel Albo Miranda, who shortly thereafter returned to Cuba,
and kept the other five in prison.
The incident struck a severe blow to the Cuban volleyball team's
participation in the Rio Olympics, since the scandal compelled
the Caribbean island's federation to replace the coach and half
the team a few weeks before the Games.
The Cuban team eventually lost all five matches it played in
Rio, being soundly defeated by Russia, Egypt, Iran, Argentina
and Poland, and winning just a single set during the entire