Six people convicted of child sex offences in France last year have been acquitted by an appeals court in Paris.
The defendants proclaimed their innocence for years
They were among 10 people jailed in a high-profile trial on charges of raping their own and other children in the town of Outreau in northern France.
The case against the six had been regarded as questionable. During the trial one of the main defendants had exonerated and then re-accused them.
In an unusual twist, the prosecution had urged the court to clear them.
State Prosecutor Yves Blot apologised for their conviction during the hearing.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the trial had been "a judicial mess".
"In the name of the government, in the name of the state, I also want to acknowledge the mistake which was made," he said.
Justice Minister Pascal Clement called the conviction of the six a "disaster".
He promised compensation, and said an inquiry would be launched into the way cases of sexual abuse were pursued.
Alain Marecaux, Thierry Dausque, Franck and Sandrine Lavier, Daniel Legrand and Dominique Wiel were among 10 people convicted in July 2004 in connection with the abuse of 18 children between 1995 and 2000.
They had always argued that they had been falsely incriminated. Some of them burst into tears as the verdict was announced.
Thierry Delay (left) and his wife Myriam abused their own children
The other four people who were convicted at the same time - two couples - had admitted raping the children.
Last year's trial was thrown into disarray when one of the four - Myriam Delay - exonerated 13 other defendants, but later went back on her testimony.
Seven defendants were cleared then.
The trial damaged many lives. All the accused spent years in preventive detention and were barred from seeing their own children.
One suspect committed suicide while in detention.
Much of the evidence given by children during the trial was found to be inconsistent, and a number of experts were discredited.
May 2004: Trial starts in St Omer of 17 suspects
Late May 2004: Myriam Delay clears 13 of the accused, but then re-accuses them
2 July 2004: 10 convicted and seven acquitted
1 December 2005: Six cleared on appeal
The Outreau case came to the attention of prosecutors in December 2000, when social services alerted them to the possible sexual abuse committed by Myriam and Thierry Delay against their own four children.
The children, once they had been placed in foster care, told investigators they had been raped, coerced into performing sex acts.
In 2001, other members of the alleged ring were placed under investigation.
In a separate case earlier this year, 62 people from Angers in western France were convicted in the country's biggest-ever paedophilia trial.
Unlike the Outreau case, it was regarded as a success for French justice.