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They face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The teenager, who suffered renal failure after the transplant, was said to be too sick to attend the hearing.

The student, identified only as Wang, was recruited in an online chat room, according to prosecutors.

They accused one of the defendants, He Wei, of arranging the illegal kidney transplant last April in order to pay his gambling debts.

The group is said to have received around $35,000 (£22,000) for the transplant, while the student was reportedly given about $3,000 for his kidney.

He nearly died after suffering renal failure following the operation and is said to still be in poor health.

‘Priced beyond reach’

Mr He denied the charges, telling judges on that the teenager had been willing to undergo the surgery.

Four others accused of having a minor involvement in the case also face fines.

The case was discovered when the student’s mother questioned him about how he obtained the money to buy his new gadgets.

He eventually admitted to selling his kidney.

While Apple products are popular in China, they are priced beyond the reach of many urban workers.

In addition, there is a constant shortage of organ donors.

Official figures from the health ministry show that about 1.5 million people need transplants, but only 10,000 are performed annually.

Executed prisoners have been often used as a source of organs, but last month China vowed to phase this out over the next five years.

Source: BBC