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Wednesday, July 22, 1998 Published at 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK

World: Europe

New evidence in paedophile investigation

Marcel Vervloesem: briefly detained by police

A Belgian child protection group has handed over computer disks that Dutch police say is crucial evidence in their investigation of an international paedophile ring, circulating child pornography on the Internet

The disks contain images of child abuse and files on members of the vice-ring, which is believed to extend into Russia and the United States.

The Morkhoven protection group, named after the north Belgian village where it is based, initially refused to hand over the material, because it said the Dutch authorities had made "unacceptable accusations" against the organisation by suggesting that much of the evidence had been stolen during a break-in.

The group finally gave in after one of its senior members, Marcel Vervloesem, was briefly detained by Belgian police on Monday.

Computer discs

The ring was uncovered after Morkhoven reported the discovery of thousands of pornographic pictures stored on computer discs in an apartment in the town of Zandvoort near Amsterdam.

The group also discovered lists of American, Russian, German and Israeli citizens, who, it says, received the material over the Internet.

The Morkhoven group was set up after the arrest of the child killer, Marc Dutroux in a case that caused a wave of revulsion in Belgium and abroad.

There have been a series of child abuse scandals in Belgium in the past two years which have led to public protests and reforms of the police and justice system.

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