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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 17:19 GMT
Child-sex trial shocks Belgium
Marc Dutroux
Belgium is still reeling from the Dutroux case
A man accused of raping his three daughters and turning one of them into a prostitute has gone on trial in the southern Belgian town of Neufchateau.

The remote Belgian village of Sainte-Ode
The press have dubbed it "paedophilia village"
Sixteen other men and two women are also charged either with helping to run the prostitution ring, or being among its clients.

The case is the biggest paedophilia scandal in Belgium since the 1996 arrest of rapist Marc Dutroux, and has excited huge media interest.

The main accused, a 37-year-old former bar owner from the remote village of Sainte-Ode, kicked out at reporters as police led him through the media crowd.


The prosecution says he raped one of his daughters when she was still a baby, and began forcing his eldest daughter to have sex for money with local people in 1998 when she was 12 years old.

There was this atmosphere of poverty, a lack of feelings and values

Defence lawyer
Now 15, the girl last year alerted schoolteachers and police, who found a large number of photographs picturing her being sexually abused by a number of men.

Among those entering the court on Thursday was the local doctor, who denies charges that he raped the girl in 1999 and 2000.

Among the accused are also an electrician, a lumberjack, a car-repair man, a train driver and an antique salesman.

Most suspects are charged with raping an underage girl.

The father told the court he had sex with his daughter when he was drunk or drugged.

He admits most of the allegations made against him, but has tried to pin the blame mainly on his wife, who is also among the accused.

"There was this atmosphere of poverty, a lack of feelings and values," said Dimitri Fourni, a lawyer for one of the accused.

The trial is expected to last a month and allegations that half a dozen other children were involved are expected to emerge.

Dutroux effect

Marc Dutroux in custody
Dutroux may not be tried until early in 2003
Belgium is still reeling from the case of Marc Dutroux, who is awaiting trial for the kidnap and murder of four young girls in 1996.

Dutroux, aged 45, is charged among other things, with the death of four girls aged between eight and 19.

He was earlier convicted of abducting and raping five girls.

A representative of the Child Focus centre for missing and sexually abused children, Colette Brichaux, said that since the Dutroux case more cases of child abuse were being reported.

People used to remain silent, she said, but were now increasingly coming out into the open.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Belgium
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