Footballer Dani Alves set for rape trial in Spain

Barcelona, Feb 3 (AFP/APP):Former Brazil football star Dani Alves will go on trial Monday in Barcelona for allegedly raping a woman at an upscale nightclub, with prosecutors seeking a nine-year jail sentence.

The high-profile trial is scheduled to start at 10 am (0900 GMT) at a court in Spain's second city where the 40-year-old former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player has been in jail since his arrest in January 2023.

A young woman accuses Alves of raping her in a bathroom of the VIP area of the upscale Sutton nightclub in Barcelona in the early hours of December 31, 2022.

Alves has said he had consensual sex with his accuser after initially denying knowing the woman during a television interview.

Public prosecutors have demanded Alves receive a prison term of nine years and pay his alleged victim 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation.

Since the court rejected a request from the prosecution for the trial to be held behind closed doors, the media will be able to follow the proceedings, except for when Alves' accuser takes the stand.

Her identity will not be revealed, and she will not have to be "visually confronted with the accused".

According to the prosecution, Alves knew the layout of the nightclub well and was there that night with a friend. He was on holiday in Barcelona at the time after playing for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar.

After offering champagne to the young woman and her friend, Alves allegedly invited the woman to enter a small enclosure at the nightclub, which she says she did not know was a lavatory.

Once inside the footballer showed a "violent attitude" towards the woman, whom he forced to have intercourse despite her resistance, prosecutors say according to the indictment.

"The victim asked him several times... to let her go, saying she wanted to leave but the defendant prevented her from doing so," according to the indictment, which describes a "situation of anguish and terror" for the young woman.

- 'Clear conscience' -

The woman, who received medical treatment after leaving the nightclub, is being treated for "post-traumatic stress of overall high intensity", according to prosecutors.

Alves told Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia in June that he had lied at first about knowing his accuser because he was afraid his wife would leave him if he admitted being with another woman.

"I have a really clear conscience regarding what happened that night in the bathroom of the VIP area of the Sutton nightclub," he told the newspaper.

"What happened and what didn't happen. And what didn't happen is that I forced this woman to do anything that we did."

Spanish courts have repeatedly rejected requests that Alves be released pending his trial, arguing there was a risk he could flee to his native Brazil which generally does not extradite its citizens.

In Spain a plea deal remains possible right until the start of the trial, meaning Alves could still admit guilt in exchange for a softer penalty.

The accuser's lawyer in November denied she had reached such an agreement, but she admitted "talks" had been held at the request of the player's legal team which had not led to a deal.

The trial is expected to wrap up on Wednesday.

After his arrest, Alves was sacked by his Mexican club Pumas UNAM.

In a highly successful career, Alves won 42 trophies, including three Champions Leagues with Barcelona and two Copa Americas with Brazil.

At the 2022 World Cup, he became the oldest player to represent Brazil at football's showpiece tournament.