"--IANS/EFE"
Mexico City, July 22 (IANS/EFE) More than 150 abuse complaints have been filed against the La Gran Familia shelter in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, where 500 children who lived in squalid conditions were rescued last week, the Mexican attorney general said.

At a press conference Monday, Attorney General Jesus Murillo said charges had been pressed against six employees of the children's home in the city of Zamora but not against its founder, 81-year-old Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, known as Mama Rosa, due to her poor physical and mental health.

The six will face charges of kidnapping, organised crime, child trafficking and forced begging.

Murillo indicated that the children's medical and psychological reports confirmed that five of them had been sexually abused, even as examinations continued to find out if there were more victims.

The children also accused those arrested of beating them and depriving them of food, a very common practice in the shelter.

Murillo said there were also many complaints against Verduzco, particularly of beating the children, and although she will not be indicted she will not keep her post at the shelter.

He added that authorities seized control of the children's home under a search warrant issued by a judge and found evidence of serious crimes.

The decision not to hold Verduzco accountable had nothing to do with pressure from intellectuals and prominent people such as former Mexican president Vicente Fox (2000-2006), who spoke in her favour, Murillo said.

On Tuesday, Alberto Sahagun, director of the hospital in Zamora in which Verduzco was admitted following her arrest last week, said the octogenarian had several diseases including diabetes, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia.

Sahagun said that Verduzco is an extremely strong woman and that Sunday he found her particularly happy after she was able to speak with Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a close friend of hers since childhood.

The hospital to which Verduzco was admitted belongs to the family of former first lady Martha Sahagun de Fox, a benefactor of the shelter and one of those who raised their voices in defence of the work Mama Rosa has done over more than 60 years to aid and educate some 4,000 children.

Mexican federal forces took over the La Gran Familia shelter last Tuesday and rescued almost 600 people, mostly children, following reports of imprisonment, sexual abuse and mistreatment at the centre.

They also arrested nine people including Mama Rosa, of which two have already been absolved of all responsibility.

The other six have been sent to a state prison in Nayarit and the judge assigned to the case has up to 72 hours to define their legal status.

--IANS/EFE

ab/bg


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