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Brazil court rules Robinho must serve 9-year prison term for rape. Soccer star convicted in Italy

SAO PAULO (AP) — A Brazilian high court ruled Wednesday that former soccer star Robinho must serve his nine-year prison sentence in his home nation as a result of his 2017 rape conviction in Italy.

Lawyers for the 40-year-old Robinho said they will file a request for habeas corpus at Brazil’s Supreme Court so he can remain free while he appeals.

Judges on Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice in the capital city of Brasilia voted 9-2 to validate the conviction of the former Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan striker.

Robinho was sentenced in Italy to nine years in prison for his part in a group sexual assault in 2013 when he played for AC Milan.

Brazil doesn’t extradite nationals, which led Italy to seek his imprisonment in his home nation.

“Brazil cannot be a shelter for criminals,” judge Mauro Campbell Marques said during his vote.

Judges wrapped up their voting in less than a day. Most Brazilian legal analysts expected the court's decision to take days, possibly weeks.

The swift decision came on the same day a Spanish court decided that Brazilian soccer star Dani Alves could leave prison if he pays a bail of one million euros ($1.1 million) and hands over his passports while awaiting the appeal of his conviction for raping a woman in Barcelona.

Robinho’s lawyer, José Eduardo Alckmin, told the court at the start of Wednesday’s hearing that his client wants a retrial in Brazil on the grounds of national sovereignty.

Alckmin added that without a habeas corpus Robinho could be jailed “in a matter of days, it could even be hours.”

“Robinho is available for our judiciary. If an officer gets there, he will comply. He will not oppose,” the lawyer said.

The first judge to vote, Francisco Falcão, said Robinho should serve his sentence in Brazil. He added that the former player cannot go unpunished and that diplomatic friction between Brazil and Italy could emerge if the sentence is not served.

“There’s no obstacle to validate the execution of his sentence. It was confirmed by a court in Milan, which is the competent authority in this case,” Falcão said. “The conviction is final. The defendant was not put on trial in absence in Italy, he had representation.”

Judge Raul Araújo, one of the two who disagreed with the majority, argued Robinho cannot be jailed in Brazil for a conviction in Italy.

Judge Isabel Gallotti, one of the few women in the court, disagreed.

“This foreign sentence is long, well-founded and well-reasoned,” Gallotti said.

Robinho lives in Santos, outside Sao Paulo. He relinquished his passport to Brazilian authorities in March 2023. He continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists his sexual relations with the woman at a Milan bar were consensual.

The court also ruled it will be up to authorities in Santos to decide when and how to jail Robinho.

Lawyer Jacopo Gnocchi, who represented the victim, said he and his client were satisfied by the Brazil court's ruling

“We believe that this is the fair conclusion of a case that took place in Italy, with assurances for all the defendants who were then found guilty,” Gnocchi told Brazilian news website UOL. “We respected and we understood that the Brazilian Constitution does not allow the extradition (of its own citizens), but that does not change the fact that when the sentence is final it is fair... that the sentence is applied.”

The former footballer said in an interview with TV Record aired on Sunday that racism was to blame for his conviction in Italy.

“I played only four years in Italy and I got tired of seeing stories of racism. Unfortunately that exists to this day. (The rape case) was in 2013, now we are in 2024. The same people who don't do anything against it (racism) are the ones who sentenced me,” Robinho said.

Federal prosecutor Hindemburgo Chateaubriand reminded the judges during the session of some audio recordings obtained by Italian authorities in which Robinho discussed the case with friends.

“I can't even say all he said because it would be too vulgar for this court,” Chateaubriand said.

Brazilian media published some of those recordings last year.

“We will punch her in her face. You will punch her in the face and say; ‘What did I do to you?’” Robinho tells a friend in one of the excerpts, during which he claims he did not take part of the rape.

In another dialogue, Robinho says “that is why I am laughing, I don’t care at all.”

Robinho rose to national fame in 2002 as a 18-year-old who led Santos to its first national title since the Pelé era. He did it again two years later as he became a prolific scorer with 21 goals in 36 matches in the Brazilian league.

In 2005, Robinho won the Confederations Cup with Brazil and left for Real Madrid, but he didn't stand out in a team that already had Ronaldo Nazário, Zinedine Zidane, and David Beckham.

He joined Manchester City in 2008 and one year later was accused of rape during a night out in Leeds. Police did not file charges.

Robinho returned to Santos in 2010 to be a mentor to a young Neymar. He won the Brazilian Cup as a reference for the promising teenager and earned a place at Brazil’s starting eleven for the 2010 World Cup. His team was knocked out in the quarterfinals by the Netherlands.

The Brazilian joined AC Milan after the World Cup and won the Serie A title that year. Following the rape case, he rejoined Santos along with stints in China and Turkey.

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