PORTUGAL INDICTS 10 IN PEDOPHILIA CASE

Date: 2003-12-31

NATION STUNNED AS PROMINENT FIGURES FACE CHARGES OF ABUSING BOYS AT STATE HOME

BARRY HATTON
Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal -- A yearlong investigation. A case file 13,000 pages long. Televised testimony by boys describing rapes by adults in dark cellars. And at last: 10 high-level indictments in an alleged pedophile-ring run from a state children's home -- a scandal that has rocked Portugal's trust in its authorities.

Among those indicted Monday were two popular television personalities, a lawmaker and a retired ambassador. Prosecutors did not publicly detail their alleged crimes, and the sealed indictments threw little light on the intricacies of the case.

Still, the charges may soothe the public clamor for action, which has grown since a whistleblower broke the scandal in November 2002.

Since then, former officials have said that abuse at the home stretched back to the mid-1970s but that authorities did nothing to stop it, sparking suspicion of a high-level cover-up.

Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso vowed Tuesday that magistrates would not flinch from their prosecution in a case that already has undermined the public trust. Wiretaps of questionable legality, constant leaks to the press and missing police records have sharpened the sense of uncertainty.

"The Portuguese people want justice to be done. So do I," Durao Barroso said. "As prime minister, I have complete confidence in the Portuguese legal system."

Nine men and a woman were charged Monday with sexually abusing minors, rape and organizing a pedophile ring at the Casa Pia home. No trial date has been scheduled.

Among those indicted are Herman Jose, a celebrated comic and host of a Sunday night talk show; Carlos Cruz, a former talk show and quiz show host; Paulo Pedroso, a lawmaker and spokesman for the main opposition Socialist Party until he became embroiled in the scandal earlier this year; and retired ambassador Jorge Ritto.

In the only other indictment, a longtime male employee at the home, Carlos Silvino, 46, went on trial in October on charges of sexually abusing four boys. Monday's indictment reportedly leveled a further 662 charges of sexual abuse of children at Silvino, who is also suspected of running the alleged pedophile ring.

Since the case emerged, police have questioned about 600 people. Counselors who interviewed children at the home say more than 100 boys may have been abused.

Adolescents, their faces blacked out and their voices altered, have gone on television to describe rape by adults in dark cellars and nighttime car journeys to secluded houses used by the alleged sex ring.

Other victims, now adults, have come forward with stories they previously were ashamed to tell.

President Jorge Sampaio described the case as a national disgrace, and earlier this year addressed the nation on television urging the Portuguese to keep their faith in the justice system.

To that end, the media Tuesday demanded a quick trial.

"A swift investigation is good for the victims, the accused and the Portuguese people in general. Long delays are unbearable in such cases which have powerful social repercussions," the daily Publico said in an editorial.

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