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Raoul pleads innocent in U.S. court

Raoul Wüthrich, the 11 year old Swiss-American boy charged with sexually abusing his five year old half-sister has pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in the American state of Colorado.

This content was published on November 9, 1999 - 16:17

Raoul Wüthrich, the 11 year old Swiss-American boy charged with sexually abusing his five year old half-sister has pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in the American state of Colorado.

The arraignment in the town of Golden was held behind closed doors but the District Court judge, James Zimmerman, allowed Swiss officials to attend following a last-minute appeal by the Swiss government.

Zimmerman failed to set a trial date for Raoul, scheduling instead a hearing for Wednesday to consider a defence motion to dismiss charges against the boy on grounds that his right to a speedy trial was violated.

The boy’s lawyers claim the prosecution had to file their charges by the end of October, 60 days after his arrest, but the prosecution say the period only began on Monday when the charges -- aggravated incest and sexual abuse -- were officially read out to Raoul.

The second charge was added only last week after the prosecution said missing birth certificates would make it difficult to prove there is a blood relationship between Raoul and his sister, necessary to get a conviction on incest.

Whatever the outcome from Wednesday’s hearing, the case is not expected to come to trial. Both sides have said they are willing to reach an out of court settlement, which would allow Raoul to be reunited with his family in Switzerland. They fled the U.S. after Raoul’s arrest, fearing persecution themselves.

According to Reto Pieth, a Swiss journalist based in the U.S., the authorities in Colorado were overwhelmed by the wide-spread criticism following the boy’s arrest.

"They were not prepared for the media onslaught, they were not prepared for the interest and the criticism they got from the European media and even from the Swiss government," Pieth said.

Raoul was arrested at the end of August after a neighbour told the police she saw the boy molesting his sister outside their house in Golden. Raoul claims he was only helping the five year old urinate.

The Swiss public has not only expressed outrage at the charges, but also at the way the boy has been treated. He was arrested in the middle of the night and led away in handcuffs to a detention centre for youth offenders. He also was forced to appear at his first hearing in ankle chains.


From staff and wire reports.

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