A life sentence was sought on Wednesday against eight young Argentinian rugby players, aged 21 to 23, for fatally beating an 18-year-old outside a nightclub three years ago, a murder that had deeply troubled the country.
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“I demand that they be sentenced to life imprisonment as co-authors of a doubly aggravated murder” because they were committed in one sitting and with intent, said one of the prosecutors, Juan Manuel Davila, in his indictment in the Dolores court on Wednesday. 220 km south of Buenos Aires.
After Thursday’s defense arguments, the verdict is expected on January 31.
In the early morning of January 18, 2020, in the middle of the summer holidays, a fight broke out in a nightclub in Villa Gesell (370 km from Buenos Aires), a seaside resort popular with young people.
The protagonists had been quickly chased away by the bouncers, but the confrontation continued on the street soon after. Fernando Baez Sosa, an 18-year-old law student, was thrown off balance and then punched and kicked on the ground by a group of student players from a small amateur rugby club in Zarate, 90 km from Buenos Aires.
He had died of cardiac arrest after suffering brain damage.
“They formed a circle around Fernando Baez Sosa. They all hit him, and when they didn’t, they prevented anyone from helping him,” prosecutor Davila continued. As the group let out the yell, “Kill that fucking nigger!” ‘ he added, according to multiple witnesses.
Fernando Burlando, the lawyer for the civil party family, also called for life for all, a “will to kill” that he believes is shared by “everyone, absolutely everyone”, with “synchronized coordination”. “A bloodbath that lasted about 50 seconds, the time it took them to beat Fernando to death.”
The three-week trial has literally magnetized Argentine media to the extent of the emotions it aroused at the time, prompting demonstrations in several cities, including Villa Gesell and the capital, Buenos Aires.
The drama had laid its finger on several rifts in Argentine society, notably racism – the victim was the son of Paraguayan immigrants -, class discrimination – Fernando was from a humble background, his attackers from the middle class – but also the vulgar violence of young alcoholics and that relation to masculinity.
Rugby in particular had been singled out for specific parts of its culture characterized by male solidarity that could lead to gang violence.
Well-known rugby players had spoken out since the crime. Among them the ex-captain of the Argentine selection Agustin Pichot (71 selections), who in moving self-criticism had criticized his sport over time “for normalizing the bad” by “not distinguishing good from bad”. some of its group values and behaviors.