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Page last updated at 01:06 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 02:06 UK

Man held after kissing daughter

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Fortaleza, Brazil
Fortaleza has had problems with sex tourism in the past

There is growing controversy in Brazil over the arrest of an Italian tourist held after kissing his eight-year-old daughter in public.

Witnesses told police the man allegedly touched the girl in an intimate way.

Under a strict new law partly designed to combat child sex abuse in South America's largest country, he faces eight to 15 years in jail if convicted.

The unnamed man has been in custody for almost a week. A new attempt to secure his release this weekend failed.

His Brazilian wife says the case is all a misunderstanding, while staff at the resort where the incident took place have been reported as saying they saw nothing unusual.

'Misunderstanding'

The Italian tourist, a 48-year-old businessman, was arrested on 2 September in the coastal city of Fortaleza, in the north-east of Brazil, where he was on holiday with his wife and daughter.

He was reported to the police by a Brazilian couple who claimed he had been touching a young girl inappropriately and had kissed her on the mouth while they were both at a swimming pool close to the beach in full view of other tourists.

It appears the couple who made the allegations did not know that the man was with his daughter.

The north-east of Brazil has for some years had a problem of paedophiles travelling to the area, often from overseas, and strongly-worded warnings about the penalties for exploiting children are posted in most hotels.

However the wife of the arrested tourist says it was all a misunderstanding by witnesses who had misinterpreted seeing a foreign white man with a young darker-skinned girl.

She told the Brazilian state news agency if there was any suggestion the claim was true she would not hesitate to take her daughter's side, and recalled that she had been present the whole time.

The woman said the allegations had the potential to destroy her family.

Under strict new legislation passed only last month the offence of molesting a child under the age of 14 can carry a penalty of between eight and 15 years in jail.

The arrested businessman - who had been due to return to Italy with his family last week - remains in custody, and it is thought another attempt to secure his release will be made on Tuesday.



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SEE ALSO
Italian raid targets sex tourism
14 Dec 04 |  Europe
Brazil struggles to curb sex tourism
02 Dec 04 |  Americas
Country profile: Brazil
14 Aug 12 |  Country profiles


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