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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Canada: First interview with Johnson Aziga published

The first post-verdict interview with Johnson Aziga has been published today in The Hamilton Spectator. Mr Aziga reveals very little, other than he is angry and confused. Oddly, the piece is split into two, unrelated web pages. Part one is here; part two here.

The article begins with a description of the journalist, Jon Wells, visiting Mr Aziga in his cell.

It is visiting hours at Barton Street jail. A lanky inmate in orange coveralls strolls up to Booth 11. He wears black-rimmed glasses, has tightly-cropped hair and beard, and the richly dark-hued skin characteristic of those from his east African birthplace.

Johnson Aziga, looking relaxed and healthy, sits on a metal stool and gently presses the palm of his big hand against the glass as though greeting a close friend, or family member, even though he does not recognize who is on the other side.

The visitor is a reporter. Aziga, the first man ever convicted in Canada of murder for intentionally spreading the HIV virus, is reluctant to talk. He says lies were told about him in his trial. And that the media coverage was racist. He'd like to take legal action against the media, in fact.

"The stories were racist, always saying I am from Uganda. I've lived in this country for 25 years."

He says he wants the truth to be told. And what is the truth about Johnson Aziga? What is the truth about a man who carries a deadly virus inside him and repeatedly injects it into unsuspecting women during the most intimate of human acts -- infecting seven and killing two of them? What kind of a monster does that?

Monster? Is the word extreme? The one who used the word is Aziga himself.

"How do you feel," the visitor persists, "about the women who died?"

The casual body language now grows rigid, Aziga's dark eyes flare, he appears annoyed, and puzzled, by the very question.

"How do I feel?"

It then tells the story of Mr Aziga's life, including his troubled relationships with his ex-wife and some of the complainants, based primarily on already published evidence from the trial.

The term 'monster' comes from a letter Mr Aziga wrote to one of the complainants from jail.

"The powers of the devil can be very strong...It could have been a mid-life crisis. But I strongly believe my ex-wife had a big part to play ... I can no longer hide the fact that she made me the mean, arrogant, insensitive, carefree, morally dead and socially, the monster of a machine that I am today."

The piece also highlights the moment when the jury likely decided to find Mr Aziga guilty of murder.

In the end, the critical point in the double murder conviction registered by the jury was that Aziga knew he had infected the two women who were dying, but chose not to tell them about his status when he had opportunity to do so.

It ends where it began, with the main question posed to him during his interview.

Inside Barton Street jail, Johnson Aziga considers the question, growing agitated. How does he feel about the deaths of the two women?

"How do I feel?" he says on the phone. "This is how I feel."

Aziga holds his middle finger erect to the glass, then stands to leave. Then sits again, his eyes blazing. "I am a human being, I have a heart," he says, grabbing his chest hard with one hand.

"Do you feel remorse, regret, about the women?" the visitor persists. Aziga stands, and sits again.

"I came from Africa, where people were dying," he says. "And you want to ask me about this?"

He slams the phone on the hook, walks away. Before he is allowed back into the general population, he rubs his head as though massaging a band of pain wrapped around his temples. Then his body seems to relax once more, he turns to another inmate in the orange coveralls. He leans to the man's ear. Johnson Aziga smiles as he talks.

"Go over there and tell him I'm the killer," he says.



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