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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 16:31 GMT
Portugal child sex trial starts
A child sex scandal which has gripped and angered Portugal for months has finally come to court - only to face a further delay.

Carlos Silvino, who worked as a driver for Portugal's biggest network of children's homes, Casa Pia, is charged with sexually abusing children in his care.

arrest of caretaker
Police investigating the case have made a number of arrests
But the case has much wider implications, as police have questioned a leading politician, a former ambassador and television presenter suspected of abusing children procured by Mr Silvino.

The court hearing, which had already been delayed several times through legal arguments from the defence team, was adjourned after two hours after a defence motion to remove the judge. The supreme court must now decide whether to uphold the request.

There were angry scenes in front of the court in Lisbon as Mr Silvino arrived in a police convoy.

"You should be slowly killed," one protester shouted.

Mr Silvino, 46, was escorted into court by police carrying machine guns.

He faces 35 charges of sexually molesting four children over a three-year period. His alleged victims include a boy with mental disabilities, and another who is deaf and mute.

Prosecutors are still considering further allegations that Mr Silvino procured youngsters in his care for wealthy and influential paedophiles.

A number of children cared for by Casa Pia have made allegations of abuse.

Staff at the network of 10 children's homes, which currently has 4,600 children in its care, have said they believe more than 100 boys and girls currently with them may have been abused.

Wider inquiry

A total of 12 other people have been questioned, five of whom are being held in custody while the inquiry proceeds.

The suspects currently held include television presenter Carlos Cruz and retired diplomat Jorge Ritto.

A former government minister, Paulo Pedroso, was held for four months on suspicion of 15 abuse charges. He insists he is innocent and has been reinstated as a member of parliament after being freed without charge.

The trial of Mr Silvino is being held behind closed doors.

They will give evidence to the court in person, but will be free to ask Mr Silvino to leave the room during their testimony.

A summary of developments will be released by the court each day.

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