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Argentina Sex Slavery Court Ruling Sparks Riots
Riots have broken out in Argentina after 13 people were acquitted over the disappearance of a young woman who was allegedly kidnapped and forced into sex slavery.
The court ruling has also prompted calls by political leaders to impeach the three judges who delivered the verdict.
Many have called the ruling a setback for Argentina's efforts to combat sex trafficking.
When Maria de los Angeles "Marita" Veron vanished in 2002, her mother, Susana Trimarco, launched a one-woman campaign to find her - and rescued hundreds of women from sex slavery along the way.
Ms Trimarco's search exposed an underworld of organised crime figures who operate brothels with protection from authorities across Argentina.
The 13 people on trial - seven men and six women - faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted on charges they abducted Ms†Veron and made her work as a prostitute.
The three-judge panel delayed for more than four hours on Tuesday night before reading their unanimous verdict: not guilty of any of the charges.
The courtroom erupted at the news, with the defendants sobbing and spectators shouting expletives.
President Cristina Fernandez personally called Ms Trimarco to express her surprise and outrage.
"I thought I would find her destroyed, but I found her more together than ever, more committed to keep fighting," she said.
Ms Fernandez also said that while she cannot prove it, she is sure that judicial corruption influenced the verdicts.
Security minister Nilda Garre called the verdict "a tremendous slap in the face for the prospect of justice".
The judges later explained from the bench that despite the testimony of more than 130 witnesses, including a dozen former sex slaves who described brutal conditions in brothels, there was no physical evidence linking any of the defendants to Ms Veron, and no trace of her whereabouts.
Prostitution is legal in Argentina, but managing brothels and trafficking in people have been federal crimes since 2008.
Last year 938 people were saved from trafficking, 215 people from the sex trade and 723 from other workplace exploitation. More than 800 have been rescued so far this year.