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Court finds seven guilty in Por­tuguese pae­dophile case

TV per­son­al­ity among those who abused chil­dren in care homes

- Crime · Society · White-collar Crime · Child Abuse · Discrimination · Sexual Abuse · Incidents · Violence and Abuse · Human Rights · Lisbon · Portugal · Carlos Cruz

Lis­bon (DPA) A Por­tuguese court yes­ter­day found seven de­fen­dants guilty of crim­i­nal of­fences in a high­pro­file pae­dophilia case which shocked the nation and eroded faith in its pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions.

The de­fen­dants, who in­cluded sev­eral prom­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties, were charged with hav­ing abused or helped to abuse dozens of chil­dren stay­ing at the state-owned Casa Pia chil­dren’s homes.

Crim­i­nal ev­i­dence had been shown against the de­fen­dants, the court said. Ver­dicts were ex­pected to be an­nounced later in the day

The ac­cused are for­mer Casa Pia driver Car­los Sil­vino, for­mer Casa Pia su­per­vi­sor Manuel Abrantes, pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Car­los Cruz, for­mer Por­tuguese diplo­mat Jorge Ritto, lawyer Hugo Mar­cal, high so­ci­ety doc­tor Joao Fer­reira Diniz and Gertrudes Nunes, a woman sus­pected of al­low­ing her house to be used for abuse.

The ac­cused had been con­scious that they broke the law and that their be­hav­iour would do phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal harm to their vic­tims, the court said.

Sil­vino was charged with abus­ing and procur­ing chil­dren for wealthy pae­dophiles in re­turn for pay­ment.

The driver is the only one among the de­fen­dants to have pleaded guilty to some of the charges. He ex­plained his be­hav­iour by say­ing he him­self had been abused as a child.

The scan­dal broke in Novem­ber 2002 when a me­dia re­port un­cov­ered the al­leged abuse of chil­dren, most of them boys, over sev­eral decades. Ev­i­dence of abuse at the Casa Pia homes had sur­faced in the 1980s, but in­ves­ti­ga­tions were dropped and doc­u­ments dis­ap­peared in what some be­lieve was a cover-up.

In the trial, 32 al­leged vic­tims tes­ti­fied, pro­vid­ing grue­some ac­counts of the abuse they said they suf­fered.

The five-year trial was the long­est ever in Por­tu­gal.

Charges were dropped against three peo­ple dur­ing the trial, in­clud­ing a for­mer labour min­is­ter.

Moves by de­fence lawyers length­ened pro­ceed­ings, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the per­ceived slow­ness and in­ef­fi­ciency of Por­tu­gal’s ju­di­cial sys­tem.

‘With­out scru­ples’

The de­fen­dants “are peo­ple with­out scru­ples,” an al­leged vic­tim named Miguel, now aged 23, told the daily Publico. “And they don’t feel any re­morse ... Those things are in my me­mory, they come up in night­mares.”

The prom­i­nent ac­cused, on the other hand, claimed that false ac­cu­sa­tions had ru­ined their lives. Not all the abusers had been brought to jus­tice, one of the vic­tims, Bernardo Teix­eira, said yes­ter­day. Many peo­ple had got­ten away with their crimes be­cause of the “er­rors of po­lice and the state,” he charged.

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