Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina Marita Veron sex slave trial clears accused

Susana Trimarco (centre) hears the verdict in the case
Susana Trimarco has vowed to continue her search until she finds Marita

A court in Argentina has found 13 people not guilty of abducting a woman and forcing her into prostitution 10 years ago, in a case that shone a light on sex trafficking in South America.

Marita Veron's mother Susana Trimarco has rescued hundreds of women from sex slavery in the search for her.

People in the court sobbed and shouted after the verdict was announced.

The judges said there was no evidence linking the defendants to Marita Veron, who remains missing.

The accused, seven men and six women, had all insisted on their innocence and argued that the case brought against them was politically motivated.

They had been on trial in Tucuman province, in north-west Argentina since February, accused of kidnapping Ms Veron and selling her to traffickers who forced her into prostitution.

The trial heard more than 130 witnesses, including a dozen women rescued from brothels by Susana Trimarco.

Susana Trimarco holds photo of her missing daughter Marita Veron
Marita's whereabouts have never been established

There were emotional and angry scenes in the courtroom, after the three judges reached their verdict.

Among the few people not crying was Ms Trimarco, who sat grim-faced.

After Marita disappeared in April 2002, she launched a campaign to find her.

Ms Trimarco infiltrated herself into human-trafficking gangs pretending to be interested in "buying" women. The information she gathered led to police raids which rescued dozens of women who were being sexually exploited.

She also launched a foundation which since 2007 has helped to rescue hundreds of victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Her efforts led to the passage of legislation in Argentina making human trafficking a crime.

Ms Trimarco, who was given a human rights award on Sunday by President Cristina Fernandez, said the president had called her to express her support.

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