German pop star sentenced in HIV trial
DARMSTADT, Germany (AFP) – An HIV-positive pop star who infected a former sex partner with the virus walked free Thursday after a German court handed her a two-year suspended sentence.
The court in Darmstadt, western Germany, convicted 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa, a member of girl group No Angels, on one count of grievous bodily harm and two counts of attempted bodily harm.
The singer had confessed to having unprotected sex and keeping her virus secret but denied intending to infect anyone during a trial that has sparked a media frenzy in Germany.
The glamorous half-Moroccan singer made an emotional apology during closing arguments, telling the court: "I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. I would love to turn back the clock, but I can't."
Benaissa was charged with grievous bodily harm, which could have led to up to 10 years behind bars, but both the prosecutors and the defence argued for a suspended sentence as she had admitted to the crime and said sorry.
Medical experts determined she had almost certainly infected one of her ex-boyfriends with the HIV virus, as they both had a strain of the virus that is relatively rare in Germany.
The case prompted a debate about trial by media and presumption of innocence in a country that partly for historical reasons is highly sensitive about privacy.
Respected news magazine Spiegel described the trial as a "witch hunt" and AIDS organisations expressed their concern that HIV carriers would feel pressured to take sole responsibility for safe sex.