in

Dozens of men and women accused of the rape and abuse of children have gone on trial in one of the biggest court cases in France’s legal history.

Dozens of men and women accused of the rape and abuse of children have gone on trial in one of the biggest court cases in France’s legal history.

The trial, which involves 66 defendants and is expected to last four months, is taking place in a specially built hall in the town of Angers, western France.

Some 60 lawyers are taking part and the prosecution case runs to 430 pages, AFP news agency reports.

There are 45 alleged child victims whose ages range from 12 to six months.

France has been horrified by the case, wondering how such widespread abuse could have gone on for so long unnoticed by social workers or the police, says the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt in Paris.

Of the 66 defendants, 39 face charges of raping children under 15 and of pimping. A total of 39 men and 27 women are going on trial.

The crimes could incur jail terms of up to 30 years.

In Thursday’s hearing, the accused were asked to stand in turn and give their age, profession and home address.

The court is also expected to rule on a request for the proceedings to be heard behind closed doors.

The victims are not expected to appear in court – their testimony has been videotaped.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

One of the authors claiming Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code copied his ideas has admitted he exaggerated his case in an interview with a journalist.