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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Child-Sex Case Stirs Belgium Anew

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Public unease over the murderous activities of a child-sex gang rose Thursday after a children's rights campaigner was attacked and a popular magistrate seemed likely to be taken off the case.

Marie-France Botte, a high-profile campaigner against child abuse, said she was attacked outside her Brussels home by a man who told her she would "pay dearly'' if she continued her work.

Wearing a neck-brace, Botte told Belgian television the man attempted to strangle her, but she managed to break free and get into her house.

"I will continue my work,'' she told the RTL-TVI network.

Meanwhile, the parents of slain children denounced a request to the Supreme Court to remove Jean-Marc Connerotte, an investigating magistrate, from a child abuse case that has rocked Belgium.

"If Connerotte is removed, it will be like a knife in the back for us,'' said Gino Russo, whose daughter Melissa, 8, was found dead in August.

Connerotte and public prosecutor Michel Bourlet emerged as national heroes in August when they found two kidnapped girls alive and secured the arrest of the suspected killers of Melissa and at least three other young girls.

They have been praised as honest and competent in a case that has revealed fatal bungling by law enforcement agencies and allegations of a cover-up to protect powerful figures involved in child-pornography.

A lawyer representing Marc Dutroux, the convicted child rapist and key suspect in the kidnap and murder case, lodged a complaint against Connerotte for attending a fund-raising dinner for parents of missing children.