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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
France child sex case in disarray
Courtroom in Saint-Omer, northern France, where 17 people are being tried for child rape and torture
A verdict is expected in June
The trial of 13 people in northern France on charges of child rape has been thrown into disarray after two of the defendants admitted they lied.

Seventeen people, including the local priest, are on trial accused of raping 18 children over a five-year period.

One couple has admitted raping their own children - another couple has also confessed to abusing the same children.

But now the two women have told the court they lied when they implicated the other 13 people.

The children - aged three to 12 at the time of the alleged abuse - had given supporting evidence, naming other individuals allegedly involved, but much of it was found to be inconsistent.

Most of the defendants have repeatedly denied any involvement with what was thought to be a major child prostitution ring operating out of one of the couples' homes in the town of Outreau.

'I'm sick'

That couple had claimed that their children and other youths in the area had been abused by numerous members of the community, including a priest and a bailiff.

Their neighbour and her former boyfriend had also admitted raping the children over a four-month period in 1998.

But on Tuesday, the women recanted their earlier version of events.

"I'm sick, I'm a liar, I lied about everything," one of them who had already confessed to raping her own children told the court.

She then addressed several of the defendants by name to clear them of any involvement.

If, after questioning from the judges, the two women confirm their statements, 13 of the defendants are likely to be acquitted when the verdict is handed down next month, according to the French news agency, AFP.

Child rape trial opens in France
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30 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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