A major child abuse trial has opened in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, with a popular television personality and a former ambassador among the defendants.

Seven suspects, including television broadcaster Carlos Cruz and Portugal's former ambassador to South Africa, Jorge Ritto, are standing trial on a range of charges stretching back several decades.

They are accused of hundreds of counts of abuse of minors from Lisbon's Casa Pia, an institution that cares for orphaned and troubled youths.  The defendants also include the institution's former director, Manuel Abrantes.

This case has attracted wide attention and suspicion of a police cover-up because of allegations that authorities repeatedly ignored complaints by alleged victims.  Opinion surveys suggest the scandal has shattered confidence in Portugal's justice system.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and AP.