Court finds seven guilty in Portugal sex abuse trial

Seven people were today found guilty of child sex abuse charges after a major trial in Portugal lasting nearly six years.

Six men and one woman were convicted of crimes including sexually abusing minors and adolescents, raping children and running a paedophile ring at a state-run children’s home in Lisbon during the 1990s.

Chief prosecutor Miguel Matias said the Lisbon court was due to hand down sentences later today.

The trial, believed to be Portugal’s longest, included testimony from more than 800 witnesses and experts, including 32 alleged victims.

The abuse centred on Casa Pia, a 230-year-old institution caring for roughly 4,500 needy children.

All defendants have the right to appeal.

The trial included testimony from more than 800 witnesses and experts, including 32 alleged victims, and shocked the country.

The defendants include a national television celebrity and a retired ambassador in a case that shook public trust in the country’s institutions when the allegations emerged in 2002.

Ana Peres, the lead judge in a three-judge panel, read a summarised version of the court’s decisions. The full document reportedly stretches to almost 2,000 pages.

The victims – now aged 16 to 22 – have given chilling testimony and identified their alleged abusers by pointing to them across the courtroom.

“Some of the accounts could be considered pornographic,” Peres told the small courtroom where a few members of the public were present.

A 53-year-old former driver at the Casa Pia, Carlos Silvino, confessed to more than 600 crimes and incriminated the other defendants.

They include Carlos Cruz, a popular TV presenter with a 30-year career in show business, and Jorge Ritto, a decorated career diplomat and former UNESCO ambassador.

Three other men are also charged with child sex abuse, including a doctor and a former Casa Pia ombudsman. A 68-year-old woman, Gertrudes Nunes, is charged with providing her house for meetings between the children and the alleged paedophiles.

The six denied the charges and said their lives have been ruined.

The former ombudsman, Manuel Abrantes, said the allegations wrecked his career and family life.

“My life was destroyed overnight,” he said.

The claims that a paedophile ring had preyed on children at the state institution for years shook the public’s faith in the authorities, who appeared unable to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

The protracted trial also fuelled outrage about Portugal’s notoriously slow legal system.

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