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Oulu sex abuse trial begins

The trial of a suspected child abuser began on Tuesday in Oulu.

Miestä vastaan on nostettu syytteet törkeästä lapsen seksuaalisesta hyväksikäytöstä ja törkeästä raiskauksesta.
The suspect sits in Oulu District court on 23 April 2019. Image: Mari Jäntti / Yle

A 21-year-old Afghan is on trial in Oulu accused of aggravated sexual abuse and aggravated rape of a girl under the age of 15.

The case, which started on Tuesday, involves eight men of foreign background are accused of abusing a girl aged under 15 over a period of five months in 2018. The eight defendants are to stand trial separately, and proceedings will not be held in public because of their sensitive nature.

Pre-trial investigations are complete in three of the remaining seven suspects, with trials set to start over the spring and summer.

The case came to the attention of police in late summer 2018, with eight men suspected of abusing the girl and five of them suspected aggravated rape. Three are suspected of physical assault and four of buying sexual services from a minor. In addition, one is suspected of keeping an indecent picture of a child.

Police say the case is exceptional because the large number of abusers all knew each other. Child abuse itself is not rare: police investigated some 1,000 cases nationwide last year. Last month a 22-year-old man was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl he met on Snapchat, in a case that was part of a spate of sex abuse cases in Oulu involving men of an immigrant background.

Police have faced criticism for quickly publicising the case and other similar ones in Oulu. Their response is that grooming on social media seemed to be a phenomenon at the time, and it was necessary to inform and warn the public. Authorities stress that online grooming cases have included both Finnish and foreign suspects.

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