French sex inquiry 'must be open'

Witch hunts are easier than you think.


Thirteen people jailed for - and later cleared of - paedophilia in France have demanded that a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal be held in public. In a petition they said they feared a closed inquiry would suffer the same secrecy that dogged the whole case.

Inquiry head André Vallini insisted the inquest would remain private. But he said individual witnesses might be allowed to give evidence in public. "Case by case, we can open our work to the public and press," he said. The affair, centred on the north-eastern town of Outreau, shocked France, first with the extent of the alleged child abuse, and then when so many of those convicted turned out to be innocent. The 13 were implicated by two women, who admitted paedophilia. After they admitted they had lied, seven of those accused were freed, but six others remained in jail until their convictions were quashed earlier this month. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the trial had been "a judicial mess". All the accused spent years in preventive detention and were barred from seeing their own children.