nina
Rape victim Nina interviewed by French BFMTV (YouTube)

Ten of the 14 men accused of gang-raping two teenage girls over several years have been acquitted by a French court after a three-week trial described as a "judicial shipwreck" by the plaintiffs' lawyer.

The Assize Court of the Val-de-Marne, Paris, convicted only those four defendants who admitted to having sex with one of the victims, Nina. All those accused of raping the other plaintiff, Aurelie, have been acquitted due to lack of evidence. 

The jail terms range from a one-year suspended sentence to three years. Only one of the four convicted men will stay in prison, as the others have been freed on probation.

At the trial, Aurelie said she could not recall all the facts clearly as much time had passed since the events that took place between 1999 and 2001.

The woman, now a 28-year-old mother-of-three, attempted to kill herself a few days after the trial started.

Sordid underground

The trial has shocked France, as it revealed a sordid and violent teenage underground world in some Paris suburbs.

Some of Nina's attackers claimed dozens of teenage boys gathered in car parks, building stairwells and playgrounds of the Fontenay-sous-Bois suburb over several months to have sex with the girl, who was then underage.

The defendants claimed she was a nymphomaniac and the intercourse was consensual, while Nina maintained that she had been forcibly abused on a daily basis for years.

According to Nina, she was 16 and still a virgin when a gang first approached her as she was coming back from the cinema at night.

The boys, some of which she recognised as her neighbours, surrounded her and started groping her. They then dragged her to the top floor of a tower block and demanded sex. When she refused they beat and raped her.

Nina was so shocked she did not report the incident to the police or to her family. The gang threatened to set fire to her home if she did, she claimed.

The next day the gang was waiting for her in the lobby of the building where she lived with her mother and younger brother. They took her to another building where she was "offered" to another gang and raped again.

The boys stubbed out cigarettes on her chest as a sign that she was their property. They told her to come back the following day and she was so terrified she obeyed.

Form that day on she was raped and abused almost on daily basis for six months despite her protests, she claimed.

The rapes stopped in 2001 but three attackers continued to abuse her. She finally went to the police after she was beaten unconscious by them.

Aurelie claimed to have been subject to similar abuses.

Laure Heinich, the two girls' lawyer, said the convictions inflicted by the court are far too light for the type of crime committed.

"When we hear [a judge saying] 'guilty of gang rape: three year on probation,' we ask ourselves what is the meaning of the sentence?" she told local media.

However Amar Bouaou, lawyer of two of the defendants, said that "a judicial fiasco has been avoided."

The sentence was welcomed with scepticism by French authorities.

The The Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine, told France Inter she felt a "malaise" because of the court's decision.

"Many women [victims of abuse] don't report [the abuses] because they fear judicial proceedings; this case will not encourage them to speak out," she said.