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German pop star confesses in HIV trial

A German pop star made a tearful courtroom apology for keeping her HIV status a secret from her sexual partners, before being confronted by an ex-lover who contracted the virus.

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“I am so sorry,” the 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa, dressed in a purple shirt, jeans and with her hair tied back, told the court in Darmstadt near Frankfurt.

She denied however intending to infect anyone with the virus that causes AIDS as she went on trial for grievous bodily harm. If convicted the mother-of-one faces between six months and 10 years in prison.

“When I was arrested I realised that the way that I had dealt with the illness had been wrong … I made a big mistake,” her lawyer quoted her as saying in a statement read out to the court.

Benaissa, a member of the all-female pop group No Angels, was arrested in April 2009 just as she was about to perform at a Frankfurt nightclub. She was held in custody for 10 days before being released.

In February this year she was charged with causing bodily harm and attempting to cause bodily harm. A verdict is due on on August 26.

According to the charge sheet, she had unprotected sex on five occasions between 2000 and 2004 with three men and did not tell them she was infected.

One of them subsequently found out he also had the virus but it remains to be established whether it was having sex with Benaissa which infected him.

The man, whose name was not released and who is a plaintiff in the trial, told the court he had found out about Benaissa being HIV positive from her aunt and went to his doctor for a blood test straight away.

“A few hours later the doctor rang and told me to come over. I went to pick up the results with my brother,” and found out he was infected, he told the court.

“You have created a lot of suffering in the world,” he told the singer.

Benaissa, who says she found out she was HIV positive in 1999, when she was 16 years old and three months pregnant, said she had been told by doctors that the risk of passing on the virus was “practically zero.”

She also feared that coming clean “would probably have meant the end for No Angels,” her lawyer, Oliver Wallasch, told the court.

No Angels shot to fame in 2000 thanks to a television talent show and had a string of hits in central Europe before splitting up in 2003. They reformed in 2007 and competed in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest.

Before her arrest the fact that Benaissa, who is half Moroccan, was HIV positive was not publicly known.

When she was charged the news was leaked to the press, sparking a debate about trial by media in a country that partly for historical reasons is highly sensitive about privacy and the presumption of innocence.

The other three members of No Angels were among around 20 witnesses due to testify in the trial, which was being held in a youth court because the first alleged incident took place in 2000 when Benaissa was 17.

In a television interview in July 2009 the singer, who admitted being addicted to crack cocaine when she was 14, talked about living with being HIV positive.

“I can’t just go anywhere I like and be free and be a normal person. I now have this stamp. I will do my best to make the most of it,” she said.

“I am actually completely healthy, not sick. I am HIV positive. Being HIV positive doesn’t mean being ill. If the disease breaks out it is called AIDS. I have a completely normal life expectancy.”

In October an authorised biography of the the singer, who is rumoured to be considering leaving No Angels, is due to be released with the title, “Nadja Benaissa — Everything is going to be alright.”

The trial was due to resume on Thursday.

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