Former Brazilian football star Dani Alves went on trial Monday in Barcelona accused of raping a woman in a local nightclub.
Prosecutors are demanding a nine-year prison sentence, followed by 10 years of conditional liberty. They are also recommending he pay 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation to the woman.
The 40-year-old former Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain defender was driven to court in a police van from a prison near the Catalan capital, where he has been held on remand since his arrest in January 2023.
The trial got underway at around 10:30 am (0930 GMT).
Dozens of journalists were on hand outside the court to cover the start of the trial, which is expected to finish on Wednesday with a verdict likely to come several weeks later.
Alves was arrested after a young woman accused him of raping her in a bathroom of the VIP area of the upmarket Sutton nightclub in Barcelona in the early hours of December 31, 2022.
The three-time Champions League winner has said they had consensual sex after initially denying knowing the woman during a television interview.
According to the prosecution, Alves — who was on holiday in Barcelona at the time after playing for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar — offered champagne to the young woman and her friend.
Alves then 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” and forced her 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.
The woman, who received medical treatment after leaving the nightclub, is being treated for post-traumatic stress, according to prosecutors.
Alves’ legal team lost a battle to keep the trial behind closed doors, though media and the public will not be present when the accuser takes the stand. Her identity has never been revealed.
Alves has changed his story several times as the evidence authorities have against him has emerged.
– ‘Clear conscience’ –
He told Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia in June that he initially lied 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.”
His mother Lucia Alves — who was at the Barcelona court on Monday — sparked controversy and risks facing prosecution herself after she named and pictured her son’s accuser in a social media post in January which she has since removed.
Spanish courts have repeatedly rejected requests that Alves be released pending his trial, citing a flight risk to Brazil, which generally does not extradite its citizens.
Alves is widely considered as one of the greatest full-backs of all time.
He won 42 trophies during a highly successful career, his three Champions Leagues coming with Barcelona and two Copa Americas with Brazil.
The height of his career came when playing for Barcelona between 2008 and 2016, where he won 23 trophies.
Alves, who also played for Sevilla, was at the time of his arrest with Mexican club Pumas UNAM, who sacked him soon afterwards.