'Doctor' Games In French Sex Trial

An unidentified defendant, right, is brought by a police officer to the courthouse in Angers, western France, Thursday, March 3, 2005, where 66 people go on trial for allegedly prostituting children for food and money, in one of the biggest criminal trials ever in France. The case centers on the rape and other abuse of a total of 45 children, some only months old, in a low-income community from 1999 to 2002.
In shocking videotaped testimony shown Tuesday for the first time in France's biggest pedophilia trial in recent memory, a young girl told of how games of "doctor" turned into a sexual ordeal.

The videotaped testimony was the first from suspected victims in a trial of 66 people accused of involvement in the pedophilia ring in the western city of Angers. None of the children were to appear in court.

Investigators say 45 children — aged six months to 14 years old were abused by their parents or their acquaintances from 1999 to 2002, in some cases in exchange for small amounts of money, food, cigarettes or alcohol.

In Tuesday's proceedings, a young girl named Marine, at times rocking nervously or sucking her thumb, was shown telling police or investigators that she had been involved in games of "doctor" that had turned sexual, or pointing to pictures of suspects in a photo album.

"He's a mean one. He didn't stop bothering me," the girl said, pointing to one suspect. Asked by a judge whether she had enjoyed the rounds of "doctor," Marine said simply: "No."

Today aged 10, she is the daughter of two top suspects in the case, who were said to have organized pedophilia, and hosted adults and lured other children to their home.

Asked to respond to the testimony after the videotape was stopped, all but two of the defendants denied the accusations. One of those two, identified as Philippe V., is the girl's grandfather.

Before the girl's account was shown, defense lawyers argued that the court had excerpted portions of the taped testimony, and demanded that it be shown in full.

"In my soul and conscience, I chose to show everything that appeared to me necessary to demonstrate the truth," responded presiding judge Eric Marechal. He postponed a decision on the defense request.

The case became known in 2000, when a 16-year-old girl alleged she had been raped by her mother's boyfriend and his brother. It has shaken the town of Angers, some 165 miles southwest of Paris.

More than half of the accused, aged 27 to 73, were unemployed, living off benefits in state-supported housing. Some of the accused were abused themselves as children, defense attorneys have said.

Last week, police officers who worked on the case said the children's ordeals were so horrific that they asked their superiors to be taken off investigations involving minors.

If convicted, defendants face prison sentences ranging from three years to life. The trial began March 3 and is expected to end in July, but showing all the taped accounts would require a three-week extension of the proceedings.

By Stephanie Lacaze