March 03, 2005
Child sexual abuse trial opens in France
March 3, 2005
66 men and women went on trial today on charges of child sexual abuse involving 45 children that has shocked France.
39 men and 27 women are facing charges. Prosecutors say a child prostitution ring operated from January 1999 to February 2002, in which about 15 couples offered their children for sex in exchange for small sums of money or food. They say the youngest victim was about two months old.
The hearings, in a specially built courtroom in the town of Angers, are billed as France's biggest criminal trial. The most serious charges carry possible jail terms of up to 20 years.
The main hearings are due to start on March 10, but the first part of the trial began today, with the court due to announce a ruling on a request for the proceedings to be heard behind closed doors.
The prosecution says most of the cases of abuse took place in the house of a man and woman who live in the Saint-Leonard suburb of Angers, a town that promotes itself as a gateway to the picturesque Loire valley which is popular with tourists.