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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Acquittal call in France sex case
Courtroom in Saint-Omer, northern France, where 17 people are being tried for child rape and torture
A verdict is expected next week
The prosecution in a high-profile paedophile case in northern France has called for seven acquittals and prison terms for the other defendants.

Last month, the trial was thrown into disarray after some of the defendants admitted they had lied and implicated 13 others.

All the accused have spent months in prison awaiting trial and have been banned from seeing their own children.

A verdict is expected next week in Outreau, near Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Seventeen people are on trial accused of raping 18 children over a five-year period.

The prosecution requested 18 years in jail for the couple at the centre of the allegations who admitted abusing the children.

Jail terms ranging from seven years to 18 months have also been requested for eight of the other accused, all neighbours of the couple in question, AFP news agency reports.

In May, the two couples who had admitted to abusing the children told the court they lied when they implicated the other 13 people, who were then expected to be acquitted.

One of the women has changed her version several times since.

Defence lawyers are expected to call for the acquittal of all 13 in their closing arguments due to begin on Friday.

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

Inconsistencies

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 and the children did not always repeat their accusations.

Criticisms have focused on the experts who decided the children's testimonies were credible during the investigation phase of the case.

The case came to the attention of prosecutors in December 2000, when social services alerted them to the possible sexual abuse committed by an unemployed couple against their own four children, AFP said.

In 2001, other members of the alleged ring, including a bailiff and his wife, a baker and his wife, a taxi driver and a priest, were placed under investigation.




SEE ALSO:
Child rape trial opens in France
04 May 04  |  Americas
Country profile: France
21 Apr 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: France
30 Mar 04  |  Country profiles



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