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Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 10:41 UK

Incest accusations shock Colombia

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Arcebio Alvarez faces charges of incest and sexual abuse

A Colombian man has appeared in court accused of raping his daughter over many years and fathering several children with her.

Arcebio Alvarez, dubbed the "monster of Mariquita" by the local media, allegedly abused his daughter, now in her 30s, since she was nine years old.

The case has shocked Colombia, and the 59-year-old needed police and army protection for his court appearance.

Mr Alvarez denies incest and rape, saying his daughter was adopted.

"We agreed to have a romantic relationship because we really loved each other. But she was not my own child," he told the court in the central Tolima province.

Sometimes I would ask him [why we were doing it] and he would say it was God's will
Arcedio Alvarez's daughter

It is not clear whether his claim is true, or whether it would affect the charges he faces, but the woman says she always saw him as her father.

"I always respected him as my father and he is my father," she said.

"He never spoke about [incest], about why we were doing it. Sometimes I would ask him and he would say it was God's will."

The woman told police how her mother died when she was five years old, leaving her in the care of Mr Alvarez.

She says she was raped repeatedly and became pregnant 14 times. Eight of her children, aged between one and 19, survived.

The woman and her children are now under state protection.

Child welfare campaigners have called for a life sentence if he is convicted, saying there are hundreds of thousands of child sexual abuse cases in Colombia not being prosecuted.

The case has also prompted a movement to change Colombian law, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia, to ensure that those found guilty of raping children go to prison for life.



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