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Rape-trial girl missing

A KEY figure in a child rape case in southwestern China couldn't be found when the seven suspects - four officials, a legislator, a teacher and a taxi driver - appeared in court.

The teenage girl, who is said to have been one of the first victims in the case in Xishui County, Guizhou Province, couldn't be reached by her family and her mobile phone service had been suspended, the Guangzhou Daily newspaper reported yesterday.

The girl also went missing last October when police officers had asked her to identify suspects.

She refused to help police and was unwilling to admit being sexually abused.

She was the person knew most about the case and people involved, the report said.

Her father was kept away by the authorities from the local court on April 8, when a closed-door trial was held over two days.

The suspects are accused of raping more than 10 teenage girls, all primary and secondary school students in Xishui, abetted by Yuan Li, a 37-year-old unemployed woman, and two of her friends from October 2007 to July 2008.

Police began their investigation last August after a mother reported that her daughter had been raped.

Chinese law imposes jail terms of from three to 10 years for rapists, but child rapists can be sentenced to life, or even death, if they are found to have known the victim was under 14. The court has not yet issued a ruling.


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