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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK

World: Europe

Child porn 'ringleaders' go on trial

The two alleged ringleaders are on trial in Dresden

Two German men have gone on trial, accused of running a child pornography ring in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The two, aged 33 and 40, have not been named for legal reasons.

They are alleged to have made video recordings of the gang sexually abusing children between the ages of three and 14 since 1993.

Eleven other suspects have been identified, but not so far detained.

One of the men on trial in Dresden has admitted that they travelled regularly to the Czech town of Teplice and paid local gypsies to film their children in pornographic videos.

He said they learnt how to make contacts by reading articles in the media about how child pornography rings worked.

Sought out children on the Net

This included how and where to place advertisements in magazines and on the Internet.

The sex industry in Central Europe is enormous, powered by the large differences in buying power between Western currencies and those in former communist countries.

In parts of the Czech Republic, the roads are lined with brothels and women working the street. Their customers are almost exclusively German.

The child sex industry is also a big problem.

Three foreigners are currently on trial in Prague, accused of using boy prostitutes.

There have also been cases of Slovak children being taken to Vienna to make pornographic films.

The Belgian paedophile Mark Dutroux - currently awaiting trial on charges of murder and child abuse - was a regular visitor to one Slovak town.

Huge pornographic haul

The men on trial in Dresden are charged with either providing children or paying for their services.

Large quantities of videos, photography, magazines and CD-ROMs containing child pornography were confiscated when they were detained.

Last week, German police said they had found 368 child pornography sites on the Internet this year, with the help of a new squad which is surfing the Web for cyber-crime.

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