Portugal Child Sex Case dropped
BBC NEWS Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Ex-government minister Paulo Pedroso spent four months in custody last year, accused of being part of a sex ring.
Two other suspects - TV comedian Herman Jose and archaeologist Francisco Alves - have also had the charges dropped by an investigating magistrate.
The move is the latest twist in a long inquiry into an alleged sex ring at the Casa Pia children's home in Lisbon.
But seven others will still face trial - among them TV presenter Carlos Cruz and a former ambassador, Jorge Ritto.
After the ruling that he would no longer stand trial, Mr Pedroso said in a statement that he felt "persecuted and humiliated" by the charges, but would now try to be reinstated in his seat in parliament.
"The first battle to prove my innocence has ended today," he said in a statement.
Abuse at Casa Pia is said to have gone on for years, starting in the mid-1970s.
Reports suggest children's complaints were ignored until 2002, when Portuguese media reported that a driver at Casa Pia had helped wealthy alleged child molesters meet youngsters in his care. Some of the victims were said to be severely disabled.
No trial date has yet been set for the remaining suspects.
Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio has described the case as a national disgrace.
Despite the dropping of child abuse charges against Mr Alves, he will still face charges for the illegal possession of a gun found during the police inquiry.
Casa Pia runs a network of 10 children's homes, with more than 4,500 children in its care.