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Portuguese child sex suspect to go on trial

September 26, 2003

LISBON — A former driver at a state orphanage in Portugal is due to go on trial in October in a pedophile case that has tainted top public figures, a weekly newspaper reported on Saturday.

Lisbon's top criminal court said the trial of Carlos Silvino, who faces 35 charges related to sexual acts with four minors, would start on October 7, Expresso newspaper reported.

The trial is one of the most keenly awaited court cases in recent memory in Portugal.

The scandal first erupted in November, when Portuguese media alleged that Silvino had been sexually assaulting children at Casa Pia, Portugal's best-known home for abandoned and orphaned boys, since 1975.

He was also accused of helping wealthy child molestors meet young boys in his care.

Twelve other people have since been detained in connection with the case, including former government minister Paulo Pedroso, retired ambassador Jorge Ritto and popular television presenter Carlos Cruz.

Silvino is the only suspect to have been officially charged with any crime.

Public prosecutors have until the end of 2004 to press charges against the other 12 other suspects.

The case has dominated Portuguese headlines for the past nine months and has shaken public confidence in politicians, especially since it was reported that top officials knew of the abuse allegations for years but took no action.

Analysts say the case is the first major test of Portugal's legal system since the nation returned to democracy in 1974 after nearly five decades of repressive right-wing dictatorship. –Sapa-AFP

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