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6 men guilty of sex attacks on Pitcairn Isle

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Six men were convicted of a string of sex attacks on Pitcairn Island, the isolated Pacific territory that is home to descendants of the 18th century Bounty mutineers, after trials that exposed a culture of sex abuse in the tiny community, media reported today.

Among those convicted was the island's mayor, Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendant of mutiny leader Fletcher Christian. He was cleared of four indecent assaults and one rape but was convicted of five other rapes, New Zealand's TVNZ television network, which has a reporter covering the trials, reported.

The verdicts were read out by judges specially sent to the island from New Zealand who sat in makeshift courts in the community hall for the trials, which started Sept. 30.

The men were tried for a string of 51 sex attacks dating back up to 40 years on women and girls on the island, which has a permanent population of 47.

Steve Christian's son, Randy Christian, was convicted of four rapes and five indecent assaults but cleared of one rape and two indecent assault charges.

Sentences are expected to be announced later this week.

Before the trials even started, women living on the island came out in defense of their men, saying that while underage sex did happen, it was consensual.

None of the victims of abuse still live on the island, and they all testified via a video link from the northern New Zealand city of Auckland.

Even if they are sentenced to prison time in the island's newly built cell block, the convicted men will be free pending the outcome of an appeal by defense lawyers against Britain's jurisdiction over the tiny island. That case is expected to be heard next year in New Zealand.