Spanish duke denies child corruption charges

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The Independent Online
THE Duke of Feria, one of Spain's best-known aristocrats, denied in a Seville court yesterday that he had abducted or corrupted a five-year-old girl, but admitted taking pornographic photographs of her and said he had been addicted to cocaine.

The 52-year-old duke, whose full name is Rafael Medina Fernandez de Cordoba, faces up to 33 years in jail if he is convicted of abducting and corrupting a minor. His lawyer says he is innocent.

The trial, which began on Monday, has caused a sensation in Spain, particularly since the duke's co-accused - three prostitutes, one of whom is an aunt of the child involved - have made statements describing his sexual tastes and claim that he paid them with cocaine.

They, the child and the duke were discovered in the duke's flat during a police raid in March last year. Police say they found pornographic photos of the women and the child.

The women, one of whom was 17 at the time of the raid, have been accused of aiding and abetting the abduction and corruption of minors.

Since his arrest, the duke has undergone psychiatric examination and treatment for drug addiction in a Seville prison infirmary. According to the daily El Pais he told a psychiatrist he had a master's degree from the London School of Economics and 'I once smoked a joint with John Lennon'. Speaking for the first time yesterday, he denied the charges but admitted taking six photographs of the child.

He denied claims that he had asked one of the women to bring the girl to his home and then gave the woman money for cocaine in return for 'the errand'.

'My great drama was that at that time I was consuming large quantities of drugs, as well as drinking incredible amounts of alcohol,' the duke told the court. 'I kept hiding it until the last moment, thinking of my dignity, so that they wouldn't say I was a junkie.'