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TV Celeb Among 7 Guilty of Sex Abuse in Portugal

Seven people were convicted of child sex abuse in Portugal on Friday in a major trial that lasted nearly six years, a prosecutor said.

The six men and one woman were found guilty of crimes including sexually abusing minors and adolescents, raping children and running a pedophile ring at a state-run children's home in Lisbon during the 1990s, chief prosecutor Miguel Matias told The Associated Press.

Matias, speaking during a lunch break on the trial's final day, said the court was due to hand down sentences later Friday. He could not immediately provide a breakdown of the crimes the court ruled were proven. The seven have the right to appeal.

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

The abuse centered on Casa Pia, a 230-year-old institution caring for roughly 4,500 needy children, most of them living in dormitories at its premises around the capital.

The defendants included 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. The protracted trial has also fueled outrage about Portugal's notoriously slow legal system.

Ana Peres, the lead judge in a three-judge panel, read a summarized version of the court's decisions, some of which was televised. The full document reportedly stretches to almost 2,000 pages.

The victims — now aged between 16 and 22 — gave chilling testimony during the trial and identified their alleged abusers by pointing to them across the courtroom.

Casa Pia "shared some of the blame" for the crimes because it failed to detect them, Peres told the small courtroom where a few members of the public were present.

Alvaro Carvalho, a psychiatrist who has counseled the victims and was in court with them, said they were nervous as they awaited the verdict.

"They calmed down when the judge ruled that the crimes were proven," Carvalho told reporters. "In a way, it's society making reparation for what happened to them."

A whistleblower broke the scandal in 2002, followed by a yearlong police investigation.

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

They included Carlos Cruz, a popular television presenter with a three-decade career in show business, and Jorge Ritto, a decorated career diplomat and former UNESCO ambassador. Three other men were also convicted of child sex abuse, including a doctor and a former Casa Pia ombudsman. A 68-year-old woman, Gertrudes Nunes, was found guilty of providing her house for meetings between the children and the alleged pedophiles.

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

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

"My life was destroyed overnight," he said.

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