By Agence France-Presse
A Romanian court has upheld the acquittals of 25 suspects accused of trafficking 168 children from the Roma community to the UK for exploitation, ending a nine-year trial.
The men, investigated for being part of one of the largest human trafficking rings in Europe, were accused of child trafficking, money laundering and membership of a criminal group.
A lower court acquitted the suspects in February, a decision condemned by around 20 NGOs as “the death of justice for the vulnerable”. They appealed to European institutions to “remind Romania of its responsibilities” in fighting human trafficking.
Prosecutors had tried to challenge the verdict, but Monday’s appeals court decision in Mures county is final and brings the long-running legal saga to a close.
One prosecutor expressed surprise at the ruling, telling AFP that the court had effectively found that the trafficking allegations “were all a fiction”.
Many observers have also criticized the long and tortuous route the case had to take through the Romanian justice system.
The trial followed a huge operation in 2010 by more than 300 Romanian and British police officers, backed by helicopters, aimed at breaking up a suspected child trafficking ring operating out of the southern town of Tandarei.
According to Europol, the investigation led to 126 arrests.
At the time of the raids, prosecutors said that the alleged victims — aged between seven and 15 and drawn from poor Roma families — had been forced to beg and steal in Britain.
In around 30 raids, the police uncovered weapons, jewelry and large amounts of cash, as well as documents giving members of the network power of attorney over children, enabling them to be taken to Britain.