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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Germany: Media ban ignored, more details emerge in Nadja Benaissa case

Update: Nadja Benaissa may soon be out on bail, according to an English-language report in The Local that summarises a story in today's Stern.

Nearly a week after being arrested, the 26-year-old’s lawyer Christian Schertz is talking with the state prosecutor in Darmstadt, to try to get her out of prison.

Ger Neuber, spokesman for the state prosecutor said, “We are trying to find a solution to this investigative custody situation with the defence.”

But Schertz criticised the information about her HIV status having been released by the state prosecutor. He also told Stern magazine that the argument for keeping her in custody – that she might otherwise reoffend – had been made irrelevant by the fact that everyone in the country must now know of her HIV status.


He would not suggest a date on which she might be released, but said it was unlikely to be Thursday.

Bild editor-in-chief, Kai Diekmann has today published a scathing editorial, 'Enemies of press freedom' criticising the Berlin judge that issued an injunction against them reporting further on Nadja Benaissa's arrest for alleged criminal HIV exposure and transmission.

Consequently, Bild continues to run stories about the case. It claims that in June 2008, a music industry manager pressed charges against the singer. Before he did so, he had made several unsuccessful attempts to approach Nadja. The man then went to the police, telling them he was infected by Nadja and that she hadn't disclosed before unprotected intercourse.

It then quotes Darmstadt public prosecutor Ger Neuber.
"The criminal charges against her were pressed at the end of June 2008. In cases like this, we usually try to approach the accused first. The police tried to do so by the end of August without any result. After that, the singer's lawyer came forward. He asked to get access to our files in October and returned the files in November 2008 with a note saying he wanted to consult with his client. There was no further reply. That was when we started further investigations, which showed in the late stages of the proceedings, that two other men are supposedly to have had unprotected intercourse with her. That is why she is now under strong suspicion with the risk of recurrence."
Whilst some other Berlin-based papers, such as the broadsheet Berliner Zeitung, only refer to "a pop star", using neither her name nor her image, and talks about a previous case in Berlin from 2000, the tabloid BZ today ran an interview with an ex-boyfriend, Abdou Mbodji, who says he was with her between 1998 and 1999, that she had previously had a drugs problem, and that she was diagnosed in March 1999.
Nadja had an abscess under her arm. One day it hurt so much that I brought her to the hospital. There was also an AIDS test. Nadja burst into tears. I just took her in my arms and we both cried. I had an AIDS test the next morning, which was negative.
In the English-language Bild, which ran a different story today from its German counterpart, public prosecutor, Ger Neuber, is quoted as saying:
An investigation to see whether the virus traces match up with Nadja is now under way.
However, to focus on the idea that immunological and virological tests will determine whether Ms Benaissa actually infected the male complainant who is HIV-positive, is naive. Those of us with knowledge of this area know that this is extremely difficult to prove but that there is widespread judicial ignorance about this.

A second story in German-language Bild published today summarises the reaction of her fans - which range from total support, to disbelief, to condemnation. Examples include:
No matter what happens, your fans are there for you. Even if you have tested HIV-positive , it doesn't change you as a human or a musician.

I have nothing against people who are HIV-positive ..., but I think it's irresponsible, like playing Russian roulette. This is intentional injury and must be punished.



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