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LATIN AMERICA | 12-02-2022 09:10

Thelma Fardin decries ‘impunity’ as Juan Darthés rape trial is halted

Actress vows to take legal battle to Brazilian Supreme Court after trial into alleged 2009 rape and sexual assualt collapses amid debate over jurisdiction.

Thelma Fardin has vowed to appeal a decision by a court in Brazil to annul her rape trial against actor Juan Darthés, promising to take her battle all the way to the Brazilian Supreme Court if necessary.

On Wednesday, the actor and activist revealed that the trial against Darthés, a former TV heart-throb who stands accused of raping Fardin in 2009 when she was a minor, had been annulled by a regional federal court in Brazil. In a two-to-one ruling, magistrates ruled that the case should not continue in the federal courts, after the defence filed a motion asking that jurisdiction issues be clarified.

The case, which was formally halted on Monday (February 7), will now restart in a state court in São Paulo, where Darthés resides, judicial authorities in Brazil confirmed on Thursday – a decision that Fardin described as “a scandal.”

Speaking at a protest on Thursday called by the Actrices Argentinas collective and supported by Amnesty International (AI), Fardin said the court was “revictimising” her.

“Darthés' lawyers want to prevent a sentence from being reached. We will present an appeal to the Supreme Court," vowed the actor, as she stood outside the Brazilian Consulate in Buenos Aires.

"The appeal will be made by the prosecutor. I can't become a plaintiff under Brazilian law," Fardin explained to a local news channel. 

In 2018, Fardin, 29, accused fellow actor Darthés, 57, of raping and sexually assualting her in a hotel room in Nicaragua. The incident allegedly took place in 2019, when she was 16, during a touring production of the children’s TV programme, Patito Feo (“Ugly Duckling”). 

The allegations had an explosive cultural impact in Argentina and across Latin America, prompting a wave of other women to come forward with accusations of sexual abuse. The massive spread of the ‘#MiraComoNosPonemos’ (the phrase can be translated as “Look at what you do to us” and was allegedly said by Darthés) hashtag denouncing criminality drew strong comparisons with the ‘#MeToo’ movement in the United States. 

The strength of women’s movements had grown rapidly in Argentina since 2015, when mass mobilisations against gender violence and femicide began under the call ‘Ni Una Menos.’

 

Jurisdiction row

Dartés, who was born in Brazil, left Argentina in 2019 to avoid being arrested under a warrant distributed by Interpol. He denies the allegations against him.

The case presents difficulties for the courts since the defendant has both Argentine and Brazilian nationalities, the complainant is Argentine and the incident occured in Nicaragua. 

The Brazilian Constitution does not allow the extradition of nationals, but its Penal Code allows them to be prosecuted in Brazil for crimes committed abroad.

Fardin lamented the halting of the trial, calling it “a violent message in favour of impunity,” in a video posted on her social media accounts. 

“We demand justice, nothing more,” she added, referring to other victims who came forward to denounce other alleged acts of abuse by the accused. 

"It is a decision clearly favourable to Juan," Luiz Antonio Nazareth, the defendant's lawyer in Brazil,  told the AFP news agency.   

Fellow lawyer Fernando Burlando argued the ruling had affected Darthés as much as anyone else.

“It harms him, it harms everyone. One of the parties can appeal and the Superior Court, the Chamber of São Paulo, must resolve it, which takes its time,” he said. 

The trial in the first instance, which was conducted under court secrecy, began on November 30 with the presentation of witness proceedings. The regional court's decision takes the case back to square one.  

"In the ruling there is no closure of the process or acquittal of the defendant [Darthés]," the court ruled, indicating the trial would restart elsewhere. The court’s full reasoning has yet to be published.

 

‘Revictimisation’

Fardin outlined her criticism of the court in a three-meeting video on Instagram on Wednesday, in which she accused the authorities of putting her through a process of “violent revictimisation.” 

“Everything I did then was for nothing? So that today three guys say ‘no, there is no jurisdiction’ when a judge had already ruled on the matter,” said the actor. 

Fardin also questioned if women were receiving justice before the courts, highlighting the resources and publicity that her case had received compared to others.

“If a trial like mine, where three Public Prosecutor’s Offices from three different countries collaborated, with international cooperation, women’s movements, endless tools to try to get justice, which is where they ask us to go, and the Justice says this barbarity… it’s an aberration. 

“If this happens in a case like mine, what is left for the rest of the women who decide to go to court?” she asked.

Despite the court’s decision, Fardin remains hopeful of a conviction.

“This is not the end. We are left with the Supreme Court, which already has precedents in which it says that these types of crimes are prosecuted in federal justice. And if they tell us that we cannot go to the federal court, we will go to the local court,” said the actor.

“We are going to continue insisting so that they listen to us. It does not end here. I’m tired, but I am not defeated,” she stated.

Public prosecutors' offices in Argentina, Nicaragua and Brazil have all found that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Darthes.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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