Thirteen people, including dual nationality French-Algerians, went on trial in Algiers on Monday accused of kidnapping Algerian children and selling them for adoption in France.
The prosecution requested a 20-year jail sentence and a fine of five million dinars (50,000 euros) for the main suspect, Khelifa Hanouti, a doctor accused of illegally shipping the children abroad with the help of a notary.
He also demanded 10-year sentences for each of the remaining 12 suspects in the case, in which nine children of single mothers were allegedly kidnapped and sent to the French city of Saint-Etienne, where they were sold for adoption.
Seven of the accused appeared in court for the start of the trial, which has been repeatedly delayed, but none of the six French suspects of Algerian origin living in Saint-Etienne were present.
"There was no appropriation of children," said Allel Boutouili, the lawyer of Hanouti, who has been in jail since March 2009.
"The only woman on whom the entire investigation rests has said that her twins, Ahlem and Katia, were kidnapped and sold to a couple living in France," Boutouili told AFP.
But according to documents in his possession, the lawyer said the two girls, who were born in 1997, were adopted by a woman living in Algiers.
Hanouti allegedly transported the children to France with the help of a notary, who is charged with falsifying "disclaimer documents" that had been signed by single mothers.
The case first came to light when a young woman died in 2009 during an abortion at a clinic in the Algiers suburb of Ain Taya that belonged to Hanouti, and an investigation was launched.
The lawyer said his client had initially been prosecuted for performing illegal abortions but this charge was finally dropped.
Hanouti had been convicted on the same charge in 2002, and handed a two-year jail sentence, of which he served nine months before being released.
Abortion is a crime in Algeria and women patients risk two years in prison, while doctors can be jailed for up to five.
One of the other suspects, Boualem Ibari, who lives in Saint-Etienne, "adopted two boys from the Ain Taya nursery, according to Algerian procedures," the lawyer said.
"He was even authorised by the court of Rouiba (near Ain Taya) to change their names and take them out of Algeria on his passport," he added.
Hamid Touliba, another lawyer for Hanouti, said "all the adoptions in this case took place according to the law, with authentic documents, and none of the biological mothers filing a complaint."
The charges of those on trial include criminal conspiracy, transporting children with premeditation, forgery and impersonation.