Paris appeals court acquits six people in pedophilia case |

Paris appeals court acquits six people in pedophilia case

PARIS – A Paris appeals court overturned the pedophilia convictions of six people Thursday, in a case the French justice minister called a “disaster” in which they had been falsely accused and jailed for up to three years.The extraordinary move came as a contrite public prosecutor said the case had been riddled with errors and called for the defendants to be acquitted.Justice Minister Pascal Clement apologized to the six people and their families and vowed a thorough investigation into the handling of a case that has riveted France.”We must in effect look for the faults or professional shortcomings that are at the origin of this disaster,” Clement told reporters.He called for the investigation to be completed by February, and said the six would receive state compensation.The six defendants, who had always proclaimed their innocence, broke into tears and hugged each other after the verdict was announced.Yves Bot, the prosecutor in charge of the Paris appeals court, took the highly unusual step of apologizing to the defendants even before the verdict – revealing the depth of embarrassment over a case that exposed shortcomings in the French justice system.”We must make sure this never happens again,” Bot said.In July 2004, a court in Saint-Omer, northern France, convicted 10 out of 17 defendants on pedophilia charges relating to the abuse of 18 children between 1995 and 2000.Two couples admitted to raping their children. Seven others, who were acquitted, had denied any role in the sex scandal.The six who were acquitted Thursday spent between 2- 1/2 and 3 years behind bars while awaiting trial. Another defendant committed suicide behind bars. Others lost custody of their children.Much of the 2004 trial hinged on the testimony of Myriam Delay, who allowed the abuse to take place in the apartment she shared with her husband in a housing project in Outreau, close to the Belgian border.Delay stunned the court when she broke down in tears and said she had wrongly accused 13 defendants. She later reversed her testimony and said her initial accusations had been true.In a letter that prosecutors submitted to the appeals court at the start of the second trial, Thierry Delay, the husband of Myriam, said all six of the appellants were innocent. He has not appealed the 20-year sentence he received for his own role in the scandal.Public prosecutor Yves Jannier, in his closing arguments Wednesday, said the case had been riddled with small mistakes and carelessness.”I am not here to support far-fetched accusations,” he said. “I am not here to have innocents convicted.”The case is separate from a similar scandal that disturbed the nation. A clourt in Angers in July convicted 62 defendants in a mass pedophilia trial, sentencing some of them to up to 28 years, for their roles in a network that systematically raped and prostituted children in western France.Vail, Colorado

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