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High-profile Portuguese sex trial finds six out of seven guilty

A high-profile sex abuse trial has come to an end in Portugal, with a court sentencing six out of seven defendants to jail terms of between five and 18 years for a string of child abuse offenses in a state-run care home.

Police and journalists outside the Lisbon courtroom

The Casa Pia trial was the longest in Portuguese history

A Portuguese court has sentenced six out of seven defendants to jail terms of between five and 18 years for committing hundreds of sexual offenses against children in a state-run care home.

One of the seven, the female owner of a house where orgies were said to have taken place, was acquitted after a trial that began in November 2004.

The heaviest sentence went to Carlos Silvino, a former driver and gardener at the Casa Pia home. He was the only defendant to plead guilty, admitting to more than 600 cases of sexual abuse and procurement of minors for prostitution.

The other defendants included a star TV presenter, a former ambassador, a doctor, a lawyer and a former Casa Pia administrator.

According to the court's findings, the accused were "conscious that they broke the law and that their behavior would do physical and psychological harm to their victims."

Taboo-breaking, marathon trial

Carlos Cruz, a star TV presenter, was found guilty of abuse

The trial implicated several members of Portugal's elite

The trial, believed to be the longest in Portuguese history, included testimony from more than 800 witnesses and experts, including 32 alleged victims.

One of the victims, Bernardo Teixeira, said he felt "very emotional" when he heard the outcome.

"I cannot believe we have finally reached this day," he added. "It was very hard to be forced to go back in time and remember all those horrifying experiences."

Another victim, Bernardo Tavares, told Portuguese state television: "It is difficult, but [...] when we hear our name linked to proven facts this gives us more strength."

In 1992, details emerged of abuse at the Casa Pia care homes, which currently house some 4,500 needy children at 10 institutions around Portugal. Some 100 children are believed to have been victims of abuse, which began in the 1970s.

The sex scandal is seen as having smashed the taboo of openly discussing child abuse in Portugal, after the nation was shocked to hear allegations that members of Portugal's elite had abused children staying at one of the country's oldest and most respected public institutions.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AP/AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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