66 procesados en Francia por pedofilia

ANGERS, France — Sixty-six men and women are standing trial in western France in a harrowing and massive pedophilia case.
The criminal trial, one of the largest ever in modern French history, opened Thursday in the small, historic village of Angers.
The defendants — 39 men and 27 women — were brought before the court. One by one, they were asked to stand and give their age, profession and home address.
Dozens of the defendants are accused of prostituting children and babies in exchange for food packets and small amounts of money.
The case centers on the alleged rape and other abuse of 45 children in a low-income neighborhood in Angers from 1999-2000, The Associated Press reported.
Three people face life imprisonment if convicted of raping minors under age 15 and of active participation in the prostitution ring, AP said.
Another 36 people face up to 20 years imprisonment for similar charges. Nineteen face a maximum of either seven years or ten years in prison for sexual abuse and corrupting minors.
The last eight defendants risk three years imprisonment for allegedly failing to report the crimes, according to AP.
Thirty of the accused are parents of victims, journalist Juliet Bremner told CNN from Angers.
«Some allegedly sold children for packets of cigarettes, to get some food or to get a little bit of money to spend at nightclubs,» Bremner said.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported that three couples allegedly lured their children and those of their relatives «to play doctor» with the adults, AP said. One young girl was allegedly raped 45 times.
Pascal Rouiller, a defense lawyer for five suspects, told AP: «To my knowledge, we’ve never seen a criminal case of this magnitude in France.»
In French trials, defendants do not plead guilty or innocent at the start of proceedings. But court officials said that about half of the accused had admitted their involvement in the alleged crimes during questioning, AP reported.
The others are expected to maintain their innocence and say they didn’t realize what was going on, Bremner said.
«This trial does not just rest on the world of the children. There are also confessions,» Angers deputy prosecutor Herve Lollic told journalists before the trial, AP reported.
«These 45 children are serious victims. Some of them have real problems in eating. Others have either turned aggressive or barely talk,» Jacques Monier, a lawyer representing about 10 of the children, was quoted as saying in Le Parisien newspaper.
«Apparently the accused lived in one district, and we’re told that many of them are of poor intelligence,» Bremner said. «But I don’t think that will hold sway when the French people hear the details of what they allegedly did.»
The trial is expected to last four months and is taking place in a specially built courtroom in Angers. Victims were expected to testify by closed-circuit television.
The jurors and six judges were being offered psychological counseling to help them cope with sordid testimony of child abuse and gang rape expected from the trial, AP reported.
Bremner said there was «very little international coverage» of the case but «quite a lot of interest from French television stations.»
«When you talk to people around the town of Angers, they don’t really want to speak about it, it’s something they’re embarrassed about. You get the feeling that this is a case they would rather got as little publicity as possible,» Bremner said.
«Certainly France does not see itself as a nation whose parents abuse their children, and it may account for the lack of some of the media interest so far.
«I would predict that as the case gets under way and the allegations come out … then you will start to see greater interest. Then I think the world will sit up and take notice.»
Prosecutors allege that children aged 6 months to 14 years old were raped by their parents or offered to other adults in exchange for small amounts of money or parcels of food, AP reported.
Defense lawyers said some suspects were illiterate and appeared not to fully understand the charges they faced.
The lawyers said they planned to argue that government social workers, who had worked with many of the suspects, had failed in their responsibilities or turned a blind eye to signs of abuse, AP said.
Some suspects, who hid their identities under masks during the abuse, are believed to still be at large. Social services are now caring for and housing the victims.
The Angers case first became known in November 2000, when a 16-year-old girl alleged she had been raped by her mother’s boyfriend and his brother, AP reported. The men had already been convicted for sexual violence.

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