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Thirteen people have gone on trial in Algiers, accused of trafficking an unknown number of Algerian children to the French city of Saint-Etienne.

The network behind the alleged trafficking was reportedly composed of both French and Algerian nationals.

The case came to light in 2009 after a woman died during an abortion at an illegal clinic in Algiers belonging to the main suspect.

The network had been operating since the 1990s, according to Algerian media.

Algeria’s security services dismantled the “dangerous” network in 2009, the Algerian press agency APS reports.

However, the investigation has so far been unable to determine the exact numbers of children involved.

Paper trail

The main suspect in the case, Dr Khelifa Hanouti is accused of impersonating an obstetrician and running an abortion clinic in the Algiers suburb of Ain Taya, the agency says.

Abortion is illegal in Algeria.

Dr Hanouti was prosecuted in 2002 for performing illegal abortions and served nine months of a two-year jail term, his lawyer says,

He is accused of illegally transferring children abroad with the help of two notaries who are suspected of falsifying “disclaimer” documents signed by single mothers.

The security services reportedly discovered 12 “adoption certificates” at a nursery in the Algiers suburb of El-Biar written between 2005 and 2006, with nine children sent abroad for a sum of money.

Dr Hanouti’s lawyer, Allel Boutouili, says the charges against his client, who has been in jail since 2009, are unfounded.

"There was no appropriation of children," he told AFP news agency.

According to the lawyer, the case rests on the claims of a woman who says her twin girls were kidnapped and sold to a couple in France.

However, he says he has documents in his possession to show that the children, born in 1997, were adopted by a woman living in Algiers.

Some of the accused based in Saint-Etienne did not appear in court on Monday.

Remember this story about child trafficking from Chad to France?

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