LONDON (AP) — Nine men of Pakistani and Afghan descent were convicted Tuesday for participating in a child sex ring in a case that touched off deep sensitivities about race in Britain and galvanized the far right.
Prosecutors had told a jury that the men plied young, vulnerable girls — many of whom were white — with drugs and alcohol and then passed them around for sex. The girls — some as young as 13 years old — were assaulted, raped and sometimes forced to have sex with several men a day.
“The details of the offenses that we have heard in this trial in the last few weeks have shocked and appalled us all,” said Nazi Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West Area. “No child should ever be exploited in the way these young victims were.”
The race of the perpetrators and their victims was repeatedly brought to the fore. Of the men, several were born in Pakistan, one was born in Afghanistan, and all are of South Asian ethnicity. Their ages ranged from 22 to the 59-year-old alleged ringleader.
When the trial began Feb. 6, hundreds of supporters of the right-wing British National Party and English Defence League staged a protest outside the court. The case delayed by two weeks when two nonwhite barristers were attacked outside the court by far-right protesters and forced to quit the case.
After those incidents, police were forced to step up security outside of the courthouse.
But Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said authorities did not take race into account in deciding to pursue the case.
“This is about adults preying on vulnerable young children,” he said.
Muslim groups also condemned the crime and praised the bravery of the victims for coming forward.
“These criminals have brought shame on themselves, their families and our community,” said Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation.
Police told of victims forced to have sex with 20 men in one night while drunk, or one who was raped by two men while “so drunk she was vomiting over the side of the bed. Alcohol, food and money were often traded in return for the sex — but violence also was used, prosecutors said.
Tuesday’s convictions included several for rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking and conspiracy.
The nine men — Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons — were convicted following a 10-week trial.
Judge Gerald Clifton adjourned sentencing until Wednesday.
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