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SPORTS | 21-03-2024 16:21

Vélez Sarsfield rape probe: Three footballers detained under house arrest, one given bail

Prosecutor wants to charge José Florentín, Braian Cufré with rape, Abiel Osorio with sexual abuse and Sebastián Sosa as a secondary participant as part of investigation into 24-year-old sports journalist’s rape accusation.

Three footballers of the Vélez Sarsfield football club have been remanded in custody and placed under house arrest in Tucumán following allegations they raped a woman at a hotel room earlier this month.

Paraguayan midfielder José Florentín and two Argentines, defender Braian Cufré and striker Abiel Osorio, who all play for the first-division club Velez Sarsfield, face 90 days of house arrest, according to ruling by Tucumán Judge Eliana Gómez Moreira. 

After hearings lasting more than 10 hours, the judge ruled that a fourth player, Uruguayan goalkeeper Sebastián Sosa, was to be released after posting bail of US$57,000. 

All four players have been suspended from their team, which sits third in Argentina's top flight. They all claim their innocence. Sosa is allowed to travel to Buenos Aires after posting bail, but the other three accused must remain in Tucumán.

The case began after a 24-year-old sports journalist made a criminal complaint stating she had been raped after being invited by Sosa to a hotel room in Tucumán, on March 3.

The four players were initially held for 48 hours earlier in the week while Gómez Moreira decided if they should remain in custody.

According to local media, prosecutor María Eugenia Posse requested the four players be remanded in custody to prevent interference in the investigation. 

The prosecutor’s request follows a three-hour interview with the accuser. In a statement broadcast on TV news channels, lawyer Patricia Neme said there were "sufficient elements to request pre-trial detention" as the four had "sufficient means" to flee if they wanted to avoid trial.

Neme said that her client had “broken down because she had to remember the whole sequence of events she had lived through.”

Posse is looking to bring rape charges against players Cufré and Florentín, aggravated by the involvement of two or more people, while Osario is accused of sexual abuse. 

Sosa, who was granted bail and banned from leaving the country for 90 days, is being charged as a secondary participant.

The players, who all testified in the hearing, could face prison sentences ranging from four to 20 years. They have been banned from leaving the country and must not communicate with the victim.

Sosa's lawyer, Ernesto Baaclini, told the C5N news channel that he was "satisfied" with the judge's decision and stressed that his client was "very happy" at being allowed to return to his domicile in Buenos Aires. 

José María Molina, representing Osorio and Cufré, told the press after the resolution: “We object to preventive custody. We don’t believe the grounds have been established.”

 

Accusation

The 24-year-old sports journalist, who has not been named publicly, alleges she was invited by Sosa via Instagram to a hotel room in Tucumán's provincial capital, where the Vélez team was lodged after a match. 

When she arrived, the other three footballers were already waiting.

She said she felt dizzy after a few drinks, lay down on a bed, and was then raped.

The plaintiff believes she was drugged and the results of toxicological tests will take up to 20 days, the Clarín newspaper reported.

Vélez, based in Buenos Aires, said in a club statement Monday it had suspended the contracts of the four players and ordered an internal investigation. When the accusation was first made, club bosses had sidelined the players from the playing staff.

"The Club reiterates its deepest concern about the reported events, which are clearly contrary to the principles and values of our institution," it said. “We remain at the disposal of the courts in order to clarify the facts and we will continue to inform them of the measures that will be taken.”

This is not the first time Vélez has been embroiled in such controversy

In 2020, the club had to deal with gender violence and sexual abuse allegations involving its former star midfielder Thiago Almada, who later played for Argentina during their successful Qatar 2022 World Cup campaign, and defender Miguel Brizuela.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA
 

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